The Town of Newmarket is eyeing a pickleball centre in the future, but local enthusiasts told the town they want it sooner rather than later.
The town brought the pickleball community together at the municipal council chambers Jan. 31 to discuss the future of the sport. Director of recreation and culture Colin Service told the more than 40 session participants that the municipality is exploring the possibility of a pickleball centre with 12 to 14 courts.
But some audience members questioned how long it would take and asked for some urgency. Resident Caroline Gaughan is also a tennis player and said it took many years before that sport could get a new facility.
“The amount of times we kept saying, two years, five years, it just never really turned around,” she said. “You’ve got a plan for tennis, but really nothing concrete for pickleball. So really, in earnest, how can you reassure us that something is going to happen within two years, five years, not 20?”
The town is seeking feedback on the future needs for players of the sport and has opened a public consultation website. Information will come back in a report to council in March.
“We want to be able to help the sport continue to grow,” Service said. “We want to hear from you on how to do that and your vision for how to do that.”
The meeting comes on the heels of one focused on tennis and a new facility getting built in the southwest portion of town, thanks to an agreement with a developer. The municipality floated adding pickleball lines to some of the 10 courts for winter use, but tennis players have pushed back out of concern for meeting regulations from provincial and national tennis associations.
There is not much land available in town, Service said. As for the costs to add courts or build a new pickleball facility, he added that the town is still exploring financing options.
He further said that they hope to use the input to understand the pickleball community's needs and wants. The town is also exploring helping to create a non-profit pickleball group.
Resident Isabel Brisbois said she does not think it is a good idea to combine pickleball with the new tennis facility. But she added that other communities like Tecumseh have moved on a pickleball facility and Newmarket should be able to do it.
“How is it that the town of Newmarket doesn’t see the priority also in this?” She said. “We deserve to have our own area … There’s an opportunity here. I’m pretty sure we can come together.”
The town is not ignorant of the need, Service responded.
“We’re having open dialogue here because we hear you, because we know that it is growing, because we know there’s a demand for it,” Service said. “We’re not putting blinders on.”
To add space for pickleball, Service said it has worked out the first choice at local elementary schools to secure more time for pickleball in the evenings starting next school year in the fall.
The town will also look at resurfacing the available courts, Service added.
Elevation Athletics owner Justin Mitchell, who runs private pickleball programs in Newmarket and surrounding areas, said the discussion was amazing.
“It was good to put a little bit of pressure on the town to start moving, but I know the town is doing an incredible job," he said.
Still, Gaughan said she remains concerned about how a pickleball facility might happen, given that the tennis facility came about because a developer is paying for it as part of an agreement.
“The question is, does the town have any money for tennis and for pickleball?” she said. “It’s not very encouraging."
The town is collecting feedback on the sport through heynewmarket.ca/pickleball until Feb. 17.