What a Racquet: Pickleball v. Tennis at OB Planning Board Wed., March 2

by on March 2, 2022 · 32 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego, Sports

By Colleen O’Connor

Who knew this was a veritable dust storm?

Two sports fighting for space in a City renowned for its athletics and for its champions.

Yet, here we are.  Pickleball enthusiasts (a growing sport among those capable with playing without years of rigid rules and practice) moving to takeover former Muni tennis courts (or, at least) paint the ionic tennis courts with different lines.

Tonight at 6 pm, the OB Planning Board meets and will take up the Pickleball push to take over tennis courts.

Why don’t the Pickleball fans want to pay for their own courts, or lobby their politicians to build them?

The racquet over this feud is accelerating.

Who owns the courts?  Who can play, where, when and with what rules?

Aerial view of Robb Field tennis courts.

First, I admit to being prejudicial.  I learned to play tennis and to swim and to tap dance and perform ballet all at San Diego’s municipal swim pools and Park and Recreation centers.

And, I fondly remember the younger years of watching the champion, Maureen Connolly, practicing at Morley Field.

San Diego has a rich and diverse history as a tennis community. Other local heroes include Wilbur Folsom, Ben Press, Alex Gordon, Karen Susan (Wimbledon winner 1962), Kathy Chabot Willett, and so many more.

Tennis interest and involvement has grown enormously in San Diego in the last 10 years. In just the last two years tennis has grown 22% which translates to 4 million players nation-wide.

Yes, Pickleball has also grown at a fast pace in the last several years; it is a sport that is easy to learn and fun for mixed groups, no matter the age, gender, or skill of the players.

But, frankly Pickleball players need to build their own courts and facilities.

San Diego can’t afford to lose tennis courts, particularly public courts. A good solution is Felicita Park in Escondido, where two wonderful pickleball courts were built.

Why should the tennis community pay the price for the surge in pickleball and the need for pickleball courts, at the expense of tennis courts which are also in demand more than ever before?

Painting over tennis court lines with bright yellow or blue paint, is senseless.

The multi-colored are confusing and alter how you prepare to hit the ball and where you hit it.

Pickleball is also a different culture than tennis.

Tennis etiquette is extensive, polite and without raucous noise.

For example, it dictates when a person walks on a court; when people are playing; quite voice when playing and other basic, respectful courtesies.

Loud Pickleball noise is unavoidable. The paddles make noise; the loud shouts of joy after scoring is understandable and reasonable.  It is a social pastime, which is a good thing, and provides social relationships to many people, but there are often eight pickleball players on a court, which also contributes to the clamor.

Not so tennis.  It is a quiet sport.  Playing tennis side by side with Pickleball players is near impossible.

It is inevitable that the pickleball community will need its own clubs, courts, and associations.

Pickleball courts should be separate from tennis courts. They don’t belong together.

Because of the huge interest and growth in this pastime, it is unrealistic to assume that pickleball players can continue to use and take over tennis facilities and courts, which depletes the availability of tennis courts for the huge number of tennis players.

Pickleball players need their own courts and clubs to play.

Rather than fight the tennis players, the Pickleballs enthusiasts need to form an association; push their political representatives in the City; and prepare for even more growth for their favorite pastime and get their own Pickleball courts.

San Diego can certainly manage this!



{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

ChristoK March 2, 2022 at 10:28 am

“But, frankly Pickleball players need to build their own courts and facilities.”

“Why should the tennis community pay the price for the surge in pickleball and the need for pickleball courts…”

Did ONLY Tennis Players pay for the PUBLIC Courts or did the general population?

In a PUBLICLY FUNDED SPACE, which is the highest and best use of a given space? 8 Pickleball Players or 4 Tennis players. Math doesn’t lie.


Geoff Page March 2, 2022 at 11:57 am

The only thing that matters here is, are the current tennis courts fully utilized? If they are, then the pickleball people need to find another spot. I heard promoters of the new sport tell the OBPB that the tennis courts are vacant much of the time. Well, I guess someone needs to check that from the tennis side.


JS March 2, 2022 at 7:48 pm

What do you mean by publicly funded space?


CELIA R ESPINOZA April 2, 2022 at 1:08 pm

Current tennis courts are fully utilized, it depends on the time of the day too. Of course, they are not used at the time of the day adults work or kids are in school, but afternoon and weekends, they are. Every time we want to use our local public tennis courts, pickleball players are already there, and they stay there for a very long, long time.


Dr. Jack Hammer March 2, 2022 at 11:52 am

Well, judging by the photo, there are two halves, each with four courts. Keep four for Tennis and convert four to Pickleball.

Problem solved.


Geoff Page March 2, 2022 at 7:43 pm

Wouldn’t it make more sense to apportion it based on the number of tennis players versus the number of pickleball players?


Chris March 2, 2022 at 12:18 pm

First world problems as the saying goes, but still an interesting debate. So are tennis courts being underutilized as the pickleball advocates claim?


Geoff Page March 2, 2022 at 12:50 pm

Ain’t that the truth, Chris.

I did not see any actual statistics from the pickleball advocates about Robb Field. Should be easy to check, the field office or the tennis shack at the courts maintains a reservation system I think.


Chris March 2, 2022 at 1:45 pm

Would be interesting. Personally at this stage in my life I would be more apt to take up pickleball than tennis, and it does look fun.


Geoff Page March 2, 2022 at 1:50 pm

I agree. I played a lot when I was younger, I was on my high school junior varsity team. But, making those lunges at my age would cripple me. I think the appeal of pickleball is that it is for all ages. They said there was very little actual moving about in the game, nothing like tennis.


CELIA R ESPINOZA April 2, 2022 at 1:18 pm

at Barnes Tennis Center, pickleball courts are part of the day open, nobody there, and now they want to take the whole Peninsula tennis court in addition to already displacing tennis players from tennis public courts, I think yes, they need to request the city to build dedicated courts, honestly, tennis courts can not be used for pickleball, and tennis can not be played next to pickleball, the style is different, pickleball is very loud. Pickleball players using public tennis courts, even adding lines on it, are causing current tennis player to spend time driving from court to court to find one tennis court where to play tennis…..


Frank J March 3, 2022 at 5:38 am

There is an article in the LA Times today (Wednesday) about the racket the newer sport generates ;)


Betsy Lorusso March 3, 2022 at 7:05 am

I say tennis courts are for tennis! You don’t see volley ball or say badminton being played on tennis courts.


kh March 3, 2022 at 10:49 am

Asking the pickleball players to go away and fund their own place is a bit hypocritical. Did the tennis organization pay to build these tennis courts? No. Barnes did, but that means they have to recoup those costs, and now the tennis players say it’s too expensive.

It’s always fair to reassess best use of public land, especially when it’s being cordoned off by private organizations that charge money to use it.

It seems everyone agrees that pickleball and tennis don’t mix, and that facilities should be separate or at least have some distance between them. Right now there are a few singular pickleball courts placed next to some of the public tennis courts. Ideally the city would keep up with the times and provide for facilities to meet demand. Some free and some with a lease agreement. But that is unlikely to happen any time soon. Even basic requests for park amenities are routinely ignored by Park & Rec. They struggle to maintain the existing facilities. A huge Capital Improvement Project is currently in process for all of Mission Bay, using lease revenue from private uses of that city land…. but for Dusty and Robb it just includes some parking lot repaving and unisex bathrooms (aka homeless apartments) that nobody asked for.

My impression over the years is that Parks & Rec and Mission Bay Park Committee operate as a silo at the city and do not want to be inconvenienced with having to seriously collaborate or accommodate the needs of the general public that they are supposed to serve. The director at P&R is not at all interested in whether the facility may be underutilized as long as there is a lease-holder in place not causing him any headaches.


JS March 3, 2022 at 10:58 am

Who does pay for the resurfacing of the tennis courts and the equipment and staff?


Geoff Page March 3, 2022 at 11:04 am

I thought the pickleball proponents were talking about Robb field, not the Barnes tennis center?


kh March 3, 2022 at 12:12 pm

PTC said they pay for the upkeep of the Robb facilities they use.

The proposal was for Robb Field. Barnes is relevant because it also offers a very nice tennis facility on public land a stones throw from Robb field. But the increased cost of playing there is a concern for PTC players.

I was told there’s no more room for pickleball there, aside from one court that has been converted to 3 pickleball courts. There is undeveloped land near Barnes but it’s very close to homes and not compatible with pickleball noise. Same for the large turf areas at Dusty Rhodes that were discussed. . I believe the pickleball crowd also wants to expand at Barnes, but it will cost them more to operate there, even it it was feasible.


JS March 3, 2022 at 12:25 pm

Does Barnes have a lot of open court time in the evening when working people can play?


Geoff Page March 3, 2022 at 12:32 pm

Good information, I never knew Barnes was on public land because I knew it was a private facility where you had to pay to play. And you say they built those courts. It has been there for a very long time, as long as I can remember. I wonder what kind of lease they have?

If Barnes has been making money on those courts for as long as I think they have been there, they have long since recovered their building costs. Maybe that lease needs to either be competitive or ended by the city so the courts could be converted, or some of them anyway. Or convert Robb field to pickleball and let the public have the Barnes courts for tennis.

Public land should not be devoted forever to just one use, Barnes needs to be in the discussion.


JS March 3, 2022 at 12:59 pm

Is Barnes for-profit or private?


CELIA R ESPINOZA April 2, 2022 at 1:24 pm

Barnes is free for tennis player juniors
Maintenance of tennis courts is a constant issue, wonder how much cost to maintain a single tennis court, plus cost of electricity, etc, etc


Geoff Page March 3, 2022 at 1:03 pm

To get an idea of the appeal of pickleball:


Pickleball has become one of the dominant pastimes in the Villages.


Geoff Page March 3, 2022 at 2:18 pm
Lesley March 3, 2022 at 1:15 pm

The tennis courts at both facilities (Peninsula and Barnes) are thriving, well maintained and an affordable way to play tennis. We are very fortunate to have these facilities in San Diego along with the passionate people that run them. Tennis play is up not only in San Diego but across the country by 22%. My family is at Peninsula/Barnes on an average of 5 days a week practicing and we see the actual activity going on. The false statements coming from the Pickle ball people about the state of the facilities and the use of the courts is inaccurate. You can take a picture of open tennis courts in the middle of the day when people are working and kids are in school anywhere in the country, but you will see the same on a pickle ball court, basketball court, baseball field and such.
Both facilities not only service the local and surrounding communities and host the local boys and girls high school matches, but they also bring people into the San Diego area by hosting sectional, regional , national and international events, including the professional men’s tennis tour stop last fall. These events are such wonderful and positive experiences for kids who may aspire to be high school or college tennis players, or even work in an athletic environment when they grow up. While the pro event was at Barnes, we met and watched one of the pro players as he was practicing at Peninsula. It was a priceless experience for my son. Both of these facilities work with each other when they have big events as more courts are always needed. A great example of that is this coming weekend and next, with a socal junior tennis event. (come out and support these 12-18yr old rock stars in action at both sites).
I agree with Colleen O’Connor. Tennis can’t afford to lose any more tennis courts, especially public courts. We have lost countless court facilities through out the years. I can count 14 facilities and places where tennis courts have vanished just off the top of my head. If you’d like a list, please email me and I’ll share with you.
I am not against Pickle ball, but these are two entirely different games that need their own space. Up to 16 players on one court and up to four pickle balls in action, causing the popping sound that they do. Before agreeing to put pickle ball courts in any area, one should take a look at the local traffic which is usually the last thing that people think about. Just 1 court would produce up to 16 new cars traveling and parking on that route into Robb Field. It’s tough enough now getting into Robb Field just with the local traffic, but there is also the daily traffic from the skate park, the local kids soccer league, baseball practice and mostly adult basketball. Just food for thought as I drive this almost daily. Thank you!


Stacy Simmons March 5, 2022 at 10:20 am

May I ask where you got the 22% from?


Gs3464 March 3, 2022 at 6:49 pm

The Peninsula Tennis Club operates as a non-profit under a special use permit at Robb Field. PTC charges very reasonable rates that support the upkeep (surface, lights, windscreens, staff) of the courts for the hundreds of members. Pickleball promoters have asked that city turn over the courts so they can create a FOR PROFIT enterprise on city land.

To that end, the misinformation provided about PRC as a “failing club” and court “under utilization “ to the media has been infuriating for anyone who knows. In the OB monthly they were quoted as saying only 2 of the 20 courts were in use (PTC has 8 courts, so I don’t know where they got that number). Later they said 2 of 8 courts were in use. Last night they changed their story and said 4 of 8 were in use at any time. (For the record – PTC stated last night that their courts are at 85% during peak hours.). Do we really want to take courts away from a non-profit and hand them to a for profit group that has to lie about the facts to justify their thievery?

BTW: I support Pickleball! I just don’t think it should come at the cost of a well used tennis club and into the hands of liars who want to profit at the community’s expense.


Gs3464 March 3, 2022 at 6:57 pm

As I read through my comment, I notice I mis spoke about the number of PTC courts. There are 12 (not 8), sorry!

Also, last night the Pickleball promoters told the OB Town council that the Barnes Center could easily accommodate any displaced PTC members. Suspiciously silent is Barnes official comment. Pickleball supporter said he “works for Barnes” but in reality he coaches at Barnes’s Pickleball courts and does not have authority to speak on Behalf of Barnes.


Geoff Page March 3, 2022 at 8:56 pm

Thank you, Gs3464, for adding more good information to this thread. I personally have lived in OB for 42 years and did not know the Robb Field courts operated as you have explained. From what I have seen so far, and not even being a tennis player, I think Robb Field should be left as is unless someone can produce some real data on usage that contradicts what has been explained here.

I just watched the mesmerizing documentary, “Some Kind of Heaven,” about the 130,000 strong, over 55 retirement community in Florida where pickleball is king. I have to laugh and say, look out tennis lovers, if this catches on with boomers across the country, as it has in The Villages, you’re on the losing side.

They show people laying pickleball in the film. I have to warn people, the sight of these 55 plus, and I mean plus, old timers playing pickleball, is not for the faint of heart.


Judith Fisher March 3, 2022 at 6:57 pm

I am a Peninsula Tennis Club member and want to clarify a few things:
-The tennis courts are not underutilized. PTC has 490+ members and 900+ non-members that play tennis. Busy times are mornings and after 4pm. During those times it is hard to get a court, unless you sign up in advance.
– The argument that PTC members can just switch and play at Barnes Tennis Center is invalid- Barnes Tennis Center is maxed out on memberships and won’t be able to absorb all the tennis members and players from PTC (besides the higher cost of membership). Barnes also won’t be able to accommodate the pro-staff from PTC.
-PTC offers daily clinics at different levels of play- every time I look, they are full. They offer League play and are home to the Point Loma High School Pointer’s (boys and girls tennis teams), hosting CIF tennis tournaments. Barnes is not able to accommodate the PLHS tennis team.
PTC actually works with the Barnes Tennis Center and provides warm-up and practice courts for players of national tournaments, since Barnes does not have enough courts.
-PTC is a non-profit and operates under a Special Use Permit. The up-keep of the courts is solely through memberships and private donations. In the past four years $100,000. have been raised to resurfacecourts, put up new wind screens, and lights are replaced with LED lights in patches over time. This is with no cost to the city.
– Co-lining the courts will be distracting and keep professional tournaments from coming to San Diego.
– Tennis is a sport for all ages- I play regularly doubles with people in their late 70’s and one even 90. They might not run after every ball, but they are having fun to be active as much as somebody playing pickle ball.
– Tennis is a growing sport (same as Pickle ball), so there is a shortage of tennis courts in San Diego. So why convert a non-profit successful tennis club into a for-profit Pickle Ball Club?


TennisTraveler March 4, 2022 at 1:50 pm

As someone who plays and teaches both tennis and pickleball, belongs to both the USTA and USAPA, I find it ironic and disheartening that while living in a country in which over half the population is overweight / obese, exercise(playing tennis or pickeball) is such a source of discontent?

Furthermore, “we were here first” and zero sum arguments don’t provide any solutions. Tennis players who criticize pickleball don’t make tennis more appealing. Pickleball players who use a megaphone to tell everyone “we are the fastest growing sport in the country” as if that entitles you to special privileges, are under an illusion of the process in which facilities can be approved, funded, built and maintained.

Personally I think the tennis community is spending far too much time dwelling on pickleball. Don’t want to lose your tennis courts? Then put more effort into making tennis attractive without constant negativity directed at pickleball as if that is the key to saving your tennis courts.

Tennis players: Pickleball is here to stay. The economic realities of being able to put 3 to 4 times the number of pickleball players in the same space as 4 tennis players cannot be ignored and is impacting clubs, resorts and public facilities all over the country.

Pickleball players: Chill. The existing facilities you desire to “take over” didn’t happen by the snap of some fingers and a conversion to pickleball won’t either. Respect the process and be empathetic to the reality there is going to be resistance. Your sport is hardly perfect i.e. see lawsuits all over the country due to noise factors.

Instead of spending time beating down the other side, finding ways to focus on INCLUSION vs EXCLUSION will provide a better end result. Thank you.


Geoff Page March 5, 2022 at 12:08 pm

Well, gee, thanks for the lecture on how the sides need to behave. How about some ideas on solutions?


moretha March 11, 2022 at 10:59 am

One of my favorite sports is Pickleball. Understanding the variations between each paddle sport is important. On the market, there are a staggering amount of good paddles. I got mine from Volley Llama Pickleball (https://volleyllamapickleball.com/collections/paddles), and it’s super light and easy to use.


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