A photo of a pickleball court.
The city of Murrieta is moving forward with plans to build more pickleball courts. (Canva Images)

The Murrieta City Council this week received an update on plans to build additional pickleball courts.

“Tonight, [Community Services Department] is going to attempt to do the impossible, and that is to make both the pickleball community and the tennis community happy,” Brian Ambrose, community services director, said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Now, happy may be a little strong of a word there, but perhaps content.”

There are currently three tennis courts and four pickleball courts in the city, but Ambrose said there have been calls from the local pickleball community for additional courts in the city.

“As each of you are intimately familiar, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country, and enthusiasts have been vocal about wanting more courts here in Murrieta,” Ambrose. “I think it’s safe to say that when the parks master plan is completed later this year, it will confirm a deficit of pickleball courts.”

Ambrose said that the usual process would be for the parks master plan, which is developed with input from the community, to be completed before bringing a project like this to the council. But, because funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) has already been secured and the need already identified by the community, the city was handling this project differently.

“We were mandated to construct as many pickleball courts as possible,” Brian Crawford, senior program manager, said. “We have roughly $400,000 in funding, and the funding needs to be expended or at least applied to construction contracts before the end of the year, so it’s a pretty tall order.”

According to Crawford, one of the original proposals was to convert one of the existing tennis courts into a pickleball court, but the tennis community pushed back on that idea, noting that there are only three tennis courts in the entire city. Another idea was to build the new pickleball courts near existing tennis courts, which the tennis community also pushed back against.

“Pickleball is more of a social game, and there’s a lot of talking, there’s a lot of fun and activity, and it’s a more social event,” Crawford said. “Tennis is a little bit more cerebral, quieter, and you know, they like to practice in the quiet.”

Another proposal was to have pickleball courts built throughout the community, an idea the pickleball community pushed back against.

“They really wanted to make sure that we understood that they want to have as many pickleball courts at a single location as possible,” Crawford said. “Like I said, it’s a social game, they want to do tournaments, they want to socialize, they want to have a lot of interaction while they’re doing their activities.”

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And when it came time to find possible locations that could support the construction of multiple pickleball courts at an existing park with parking and restroom facilities, a relatively even grade, minimal drainage and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) issues, Crawford said it was difficult.

“The locations that we looked at, I think it’s important to note, there are issues with every single one of these locations,” he said of the 10 locations the department evaluated.

For Councilmember Lisa DeForest, it seemed to make more sense for the new pickleball courts to be built at Alderwood Park, which already has two pickleball courts.

“It seems like that would be more cohesive to what’s been asked for by the pickleball community,” she said.

Councilmember Ron Holliday agreed with DeForest, saying placing the new courts near other existing courts was “probably the best way to go.”

There are also two pickleball courts at B Street Station Park, but Crawford said there was no real potential for expansion there due to spacing concerns with the existing courts caused by a drainage issue.

“Those courts are way too close together,” he said. “We may have to look at maybe putting a fence in between to try to help that issue.”

Going forward, Crawford said the next steps would be to get the project into design, where the city will also get a better understanding of how many courts it can expect to build with the funding it has, and complete the CEQA analysis. From there, he said that the city would engage with a contractor through a cooperative purchasing agreement.

“What you would do is you would have a design ready for them, they would review it, they would put together a proposal, and you would make sure that the proposal is dialed in, you get approval and then you start construction,” Crawford said. “It cuts out several months worth of labor through the bidding process.”

Ambrose said that additional courts, for both tennis and pickleball, could be discussed once additional funding was identified.

A full recording of the meeting can be found here on the city’s YouTube channel.

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