Jul 28, 2023 - Sports

San Diego lags behind in pickleball courts per capita

Illustration of a pickleball racket and a tennis racket in a dueling position.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

As pickleball continues to gain popularity in San Diego, parks and recreation departments have been assessing how to meet demand while navigating recreational turf wars.

  • Without a designated public pickleball facility, private tennis clubs and resorts countywide are converting existing courts to boost profits, the Union-Tribune reported.

Driving the news: Point Loma's Barnes Tennis Center, a facility at the center of the local battle, recently added seven dedicated pickleball courts with fixed nets and announced plans for more in June.

  • The additional 12-court facility was set to be completed by the end of July, but facility personnel now expect it to be open by mid-September.

Why it matters: Cities are in a love/hate relationship with pickleball, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson and Alice Feng report.

  • Amid the pandemic, pickleball became America's fastest-growing sport. But, it's noisy and draws complaints from tennis players who've been kicked off their turf.

Between the lines: For two years, pickleballers have pushed the city to build more dedicated public courts. Some advocates used "drone flights aimed at proving tennis courts are underused and accusations of falsified playing logs" to make their case, per the U-T.

Context: San Diego has 7.2 pickleball courts per capita, according to the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a pro-parks nonprofit.

  • The city ranks 30th nationwide for the number of courts per capita (100,000 people).
Data: Trust for Public Land; Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

The big picture: There's been a sixfold increase in the number of public pickleball courts in the 100 biggest U.S. cities since 2017 — from 420 to 2,788 — but municipal leaders say they still aren't close to meeting demand.

Zoom in: San Diego's pickleball courts are scattered around local parks, malls, community centers and resorts for open play, clinics and leagues.

  • There are converted indoor and outdoor courts at dozens of facilities managed and maintained by the city's parks and recreation department.
  • Nearly all are free, some provide nets, but many require you to bring your own equipment and court times can be limited.

What they're saying: "The cities that have really good park systems tend to be the ones that have a lot of pickleball courts," says Will Klein, associate director of parks research at TPL.

  • "Those are also the same cities that we found are the healthiest places to live," with the best measures of mental health and physical activity.

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