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Newmarket eyes another shift in location for pickleball facility

Staff to suggest pushing facility further south on Bayview Parkway after outcry from neighbours of prior location

The Town of Newmarket is again planning to shift locations for a new pickleball facility after public outcry.

The town circulated a letter to residents around George Richardson Park in January regarding the ongoing progress for a new pickleball facility. The town is now planning for another location for the facility, to be presented to council Feb. 26.

Although it will still be situated in George Richardson Park, the town plans to change it from the north end of the park to one further south after concerns from neighbouring residents.

“This location is being proposed as it is located at the most southern part of the park, has an existing parking facility and natural buffering features. If approved, this location will replace the full-sized soccer field currently in this location, and staff will make arrangements for an alternative field,” commissioner of community services Jeff Payne said.

Newmarket has worked toward creating a new pickleball facility for the past year to meet the demands for the burgeoning sport. Staff initially pitched a location at the Lions Park tennis courts. That location garnered concern from facility users, but staff eventually decided the location did not work due to its size.

With that, staff pitched George Richardson Park as a location in December, not far from the Leslie Valley neighbourhood. Staff indicated the park has space to accommodate a facility with 14 to 20 courts, with a minimal impact on other sports users. The town initially pitched a location on the northern end, using one of the soccer mini-fields.

This location garnered outcry from some nearby residents concerned by the possible noise and traffic impacts, with residents delegating to the council asking for a different location. Residents also raised that there was a lack of consultation before the location was put on the council table for possible approval. 

“This is not a win-win situation. There is going to be a huge impact on the Leslie Valley neighborhood,” Leslie Benedict wrote to council in December. “The proposed plan will change the landscape of this quiet residential neighbourhood.”

Staff said there would be efforts to use fencing and natural buffers to mitigate any noise impacts, as well as expand parking as necessary. However, council opted to defer to explore more options. 

The new location is farther away from the Leslie Valley neighbourhood, southwest on Bayview Parkway near the Madison Greenhouse venue.

Newmarket Soccer Club president Petra Fera said the proposed new location is for a field the club does use regularly, but it is unlit, so evening use is limited.

Regardless, she said while losing a soccer field poses inconvenience, she understands the need.

“It’s great the town is looking at providing the facility or trying to provide the facility for people to explore other sports,” she said. “We also know that the town will ensure there is more than enough space for the programming to be able to continue. I don’t think they will put us at a disadvantage." 

She further said Newmarket does have plenty of grass fields, though added a “dream and a wish” would be for more artificial turf fields in the future that could be lit, to enable programs for the many groups that use soccer fields.

But Fera said, “I’m excited for the pickleball community if they’re able to get their facility and excited for the soccer community if the town is able to replace the field.”

Wherever the pickleball facility is located, the town projects the new facility will cost $3.5 million to $5.5 million to build, funded with recreation development charges. The town also estimates it can generate an annual operating surplus of approximately $85,000 at the facility through memberships, rentals and programs. 

Payne said the town invites further input into the decision.

“We are open to feedback from the community and would like to thank everyone for their support in the growth of pickleball in Newmarket,” Payne said.