The Saga of Pickleball at Robb Field Continues at Mission Bay Park Committee

by on November 4, 2022 · 24 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego, Sports

By Geoff Page

The saga of pickleball’s attempt to find a home at Robb Field continued Tuesday, November 1, with an appearance before the Mission Bay Park Committee, at the Santa Clara Recreation Center in Mission Beach.

Stephan Boyland and Mike Shinzaki made the pitch on behalf of the Pickleball Association of San Diego. The pitch involved three possible options to have pickleball at Robb Field.

#1 – Share the existing 12 tennis courts. There are six courts in one fenced-in enclosure and six in another. Pickleball would like to have six of the 12 courts.

#2 – Take 6 of the 12 courts while building new, replacement tennis courts somewhere nearby.

#3 – Construct new pickleball courts somewhere in Robb Field.

The pickleballers prefer option #1 because they could have people playing the game quickly. Converting the tennis courts to pickleball courts mainly involves restriping and new nets. Option #2 was a close second because it would also enable them to get people playing quickly.

Option #3 was the least favorable option because it would take a number of years to accomplish design, permitting, and construction.

Boyland and Shinzaki have been making the rounds promoting pickleball for some time. The OB Planning Board voted to support a motion to let pickleball have four of the 12 courts for a one-year trial period at their March 2 meeting this year. The first motion to give them six courts failed with a tie vote of 6 to 6.

The OBPB vote would require the pickleballers to build a fence within the existing enclosure to fence off two tennis courts, which seemed impractical. The board stressed that it had no jurisdiction over Robb Field because it is part of the Mission Bay Park. This was just a recommendation.

Regardless of the practicality, Boyland brought it up to show there was some support for pickleball in OB. OBPB chair Andrea Schlageter attended the meeting and affirmed that the board voted to recommend the four courts. Schlageter said their motion only passed by a vote of 7 to 5 vote, indicating ambivalence about the idea.

There is a major development in the pickleball story people may not be aware of. When they came before the OBPB they were a for-profit venture. This caused them problems because the Point Loma Tennis Club, that has managed the courts for years, is a non-profit organization.

For-profit versus non-profit was not a good optic for the pickleballers. They solved that problem by becoming a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit, The Pickleball Association of San Diego, a Public Benefits Corporation. The initial filing date was September 13, 2022. This change will mute a lot of the previous opposition.

Even with the switch to a non-profit status, Boyland and Shinzaki said they are still committed to a number of improvements they would fund, without public money, such as a new clubhouse. The existing facility is a very old mobile modular building that could use improvement or replacement.

The presentation included a lot of information that most people know by now such as the exploding popularity of pickleball. There are few places to play anywhere in the county and only one place in the city. The demand is there now for pickleball courts.

Robb field has number of advantages for having pickleball including plenty of parking and isolation. Pickleball is a very noisy sport and complaints about it across the country can be found when these courts are near homes. The courts at Robb Field are not anywhere near residences.

It seems that the effort to get some of the existing courts away from tennis may have lighted the proverbial fire under the tennis group. It was mentioned that the tennis group had come before the park committee in October with a presentation.

In the committee’s October 4 meeting minutes, under “Information Items” was this:

Peninsula Tennis Club Conceptual Plan – Todd Sprague Peninsula Tennis Club, President San Diego District Tennis Association provide a concept of expanding the footprint of the 12 tennis courts at the Peninsula Tennis club (PTC) with private funding to allow for normal spacing between courts, adding Padel courts to PTC and updating the current clubhouse.

Sprague also generously allowed that there should be a standalone pickleball facility somewhere else in Robb Field constructed with private money. It was not only no to pickleball, it was hell no. That seemed to be exemplified by the PTC plan’s inclusion of new facilities for a different paddle-type sport “Patel.”

Here is a description of “Padel” from Wikipedia:

Padel is a racket sport typically played in doubles on an enclosed court slightly smaller than a doubles tennis court. Scoring is the same as normal tennis, and the balls used are similar but with a little less pressure. The main differences are that the court has walls and the balls can be played off them in a similar way as in the game of squash and that solid, stringless bats are used.

So, instead of some pickleball courts, the tennis club wants to build something for a sport this writer had to look up.

The tennis club’s plans are depicted and described in an October 17, 2022, press release by Sprague.

Oddly, there was no public opposition to the pickleball proposals. Six people spoke and all were for pickleball. Considering the controversy about tennis giving up facilities for pickleball, some opposition would be expected.

Committee member comments varied. Gio Ingolia characterized it as a “land grab.” Others were concerned about the process of deciding who should be given the right to manage the existing facilities. There was not any enthusiasm for supporting taking over existing facilities at Robb Field.

In the end, the committee was sympathetic to the pickleballers’ cause but believed that a process needed to be followed for the facilities including opening them up for proposals from other interested parties. The committee did not feel it was appropriate for them to support one entity over other possible aspirants.

The motion that finally passed was non-committal, to say the least. The committee voted to support accommodating pickleball “somewhere in Mission Bay Park” and to have the city make the decision on who would be chosen to operate it and where it would be located. It was not anything that would help the pickleball proponents any time soon.

For more information on the pickleball organization, go here

Dusty Rhodes Park

During the park committee meeting, there was a budget item of interest to OB. The Mission Bay Park Improvement Fund Oversight Committee requested approval of allocating $10,807,066.53 to fund a series of projects.

Dusty Rhodes Park was slated to get 20% of the total allocation or $2,215,000. Three items are listed in the budget. The first was $444,000 for the restrooms, that have been euphemistically renamed “comfort stations” in recent years. The second item was $327,000 for parking lot improvements. The third item was $1,444,000 for a playground.

For more information contact Gio Ingolia at

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Webb November 4, 2022 at 6:09 pm

Homeless crisis, war in Ukraine, inflation, a threat to democratic elections and…wait for it…pickleball.


Chris November 4, 2022 at 6:19 pm

Pickleball is more fun to argue about despite real world problems.


Frank Gormlie November 7, 2022 at 9:07 am

And maybe we can add all sports to that.


Chris November 7, 2022 at 10:18 am



Geoff Page November 4, 2022 at 7:02 pm

It is a diversion of sorts. But, it does highlight the age old problem of conflict among human beings. Once it was a mastodon leg bone, then it was world domination, now we have plenty more to add to the list like you noted. This one seems silly but it is tradition to fight first and compromise later.


kh November 8, 2022 at 8:51 am

I don’t think the war in Ukraine is within the purview of the Mission Bay Park Committee.


Chris November 4, 2022 at 6:17 pm

Yes to pickleball.


Chris November 5, 2022 at 9:03 am

Padel looks fun also:


Ron Walker November 6, 2022 at 12:09 pm

Nothing against Padel, but pickleball is a sport that people are *already playing* — there is existing demand, a huge shortage of courts, and extreme underutilization of tennis courts. San Diego is way behind the curve on pickleball, and we need more courts sooner than later. Let’s take the smart and efficient use and repurpose some tennis courts!


Suede Boer November 6, 2022 at 3:47 pm

I attended the meeting. It’s great that the Mission Bay Parks Committee volunteer board each recognized San Diego’s need to provide a Pickleball venue and that Robb Field can happen NOW.
Stefan, Mike and David provided the detailed plan to repurposed the unused tennis courts. Stefan also handed the MBPC usage logs from Peninsula Tennis Club which prove they are barely used and can be consolidated.
It’s a simple decision: serve more citizens of San Diego in their quest for a venue to play pickleball at ZERO additional cost to the city.
Move this forward and grant “The Pickleball Association of San Diego” (a 501c3 Non-profit organization) the Robb Field Courts permit NOW.
The 5,000 + Pickleball players and citizens of San Diego are anxiously waiting for our city officials to do the right thing.


David C November 6, 2022 at 6:35 pm

Thanks for acknowledging that there is a huge pent up demand for public pickleball courts in San Diego that is unfulfilled. The MBPC saw it this way too with their unanimous vote to support pickleball. Court utilization data shows that repurposing 6 tennis courts at Robb Field into 18 pickle courts is the best and fastest way to provide recreation to hundreds of pickleball players every day without negatively impacting tennis players who have many public court options within a 3 mile radius of Robb Field.


Nikki Waters November 6, 2022 at 7:17 pm

This discussion has gone on long enough—and finally the Mission Bay Park committee has acknowledged that Peninsula Tennis Club courts actually ARE underutilized AND A UNANIMOUS VOTE TO SUPPORT CONVERTING COURTS TO PICKLEBALL!
Just so reflective of the arduous time it takes for any political group to recognize and acknowledge facts presented months ago. This a win-win for San Diego and all public sports facilities in San Diego.
Kudos to the MBPC board for reaching this decision expeditiously, allowing the city now to follow this example for a quick resolution—move forward and convert as many courts possible at Robb Field to a dedicated pickleball facility!


Geoff Page November 7, 2022 at 10:24 am

That is not what actually happened. The Mission Bay Park Committee only voted to support pickleball’s existence “somewhere” within the park boundaries. They did not vote to convert the courts. The OBPB voted to convert four courts but they have no jurisdiction over Robb Field.


Stefan Boyland November 6, 2022 at 8:56 pm

Thank you OB Rag for continuing to cover the pickleball saga. The Mission Bay Parks Committee discussed repurposing tennis courts to pickleball and keeping it on the table. The vote was more generic but one we had proposed and wanted to prove the concept. We are excited.

We are making some serious progress at these meetings and behind the scenes as well. But with that said, there is still a lot more work to be done. Glad you are all following along. Stay tuned!

Best, Stefan


Kevin Bacon November 6, 2022 at 10:15 pm

Finally an article with clarity, accuracy, and fairness. As a player/coach I can certainly speak to the dearth of courts and specifically a “complex” to hold tournaments and other events that require scale.
San Diego stands alone in the SOUTHWEST much less the county as a city lacking such a venue. The city is missing out on financial opportunities as well as satisfying community needs. Tournaments, clinics, and the like draw hundreds of players week in and week out. National events are played by THOUSANDS of participants, all willing to spend dollars.
The city has lost Football, Basketball, (almost) Baseball and now hinders the progress of the fastest growing sport in the country.


Debby November 7, 2022 at 8:22 am

It was wonderful to see that at least this board recognized the need for pickleball courts in San Diego now. Building courts would take years and I won’t live that long so I really hope to be playing on some courts close to my home in the very near future.


Shane Buysse November 7, 2022 at 9:29 am

Happy to hear that the MBPC voted unanimously to support the growth of pickleball in San Diego. Converting half of the courts (even temporarily until new courts could be built) seems like a very fair compromise. With no public pickleball facilities in city of San Diego sharing some space seems like a meager request. It also seems that the tennis facilities are under utilized. Just go to any pickleball club in San Diego to see for yourself how many people are out there waiting in line to play pickleball!


Barbara November 7, 2022 at 9:12 am

It sure seems with the utilization data on how much extra open time is available on the Robb Field tennis courts, that they could (and should) easily allow some courts to be used for pickleball. This sport is growing so fast. Why not give the new pickleball non-profit the opportunity to have the 6 under-utilized courts for a year and see how it goes? Easy way to test the concept and easy way to make the large group of pickleball players happy.


Shane Buysse November 7, 2022 at 9:30 am

It really does seem like an easy solution. Not wanting to give an inch may be the downfall of PTC


Susan Bruin November 7, 2022 at 1:45 pm

Its hard to believe how long and difficult this process has been and continues to be for the San Diego pickleball community, which is 10s of thousands of players and growing! The data and facts are IN and contrary to what tennis players at Barnes or PTC may say, the facts show that the City could allow at least 1/2 the tennis courts at PTC (6 courts) to be used for pickleball with no major hardships to existing tennis activities for San Diegans, especially if tennis players are willing to play at Barnes IF the day and time they want at PTC happens to be full, or vice-versa (peak use at each club is at opposite times: 9-11 am at PTC, 4-6 pm at Barnes). No data shows a shortage of tennis courts at any time in Pt Loma or San Diego. This could be an easy, at least short-term solution for the City Parks & Rec., while constructing a larger, dedicated pickleball facility over the next 3-5+ years. Once that happens, the City could decide whether to revert those 6 courts back to tennis or not. PTC & Barnes proposing to add Padel courts instead of pickleball courts is politics at its worst, an ugly snub to the City’s enormous pickleball community. Let’s not be spiteful! Sharing is caring. The City needs to find a way to at least temporarily reallocate some of this limited recreational resource (paved sports courts) to the fastest growing sport in America– pickleball.


Barb November 7, 2022 at 2:19 pm

Well said, Susan.


Weston Quick November 8, 2022 at 8:42 am

“ Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.”- Theodore Roosevelt

Thanks Teddy and OB Rag. Great sesh with The Pickleball Association of San Diego. I was able to plug the tourism angle and was blessed for the opportunity. Great to see progress. I greatly appreciate all getting behind pickleball in the City of San Diego. ???????? “Wagon Wes”


laplayaheritage November 9, 2022 at 9:38 am

Thanks Geoff for this great update.

The Pickleball Association of San Diego Youtube Channel


Geoff Page November 9, 2022 at 4:39 pm

Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: