Pickleball Players Not Happy With Surprise ‘Sand-Bagging’ by Point Loma’s Barnes Tennis Center

by on June 21, 2023 · 6 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego, Sports

Last week at a meeting of San Diego’s Parks and Recreation Board, it was all supposed to end – all the acrimony between tennis players and pickleball players that’s been going on over the last two years. Or so tennis players thought.

They believed that when Point Loma’s Barnes Tennis Center announced during the June 15 hearing it will soon have 19 pickleball courts, pickleball players would be happy, and everyone could just get along.

But they weren’t. Pickleball players view the surprise announcement by Barnes as a “sand-bag,” “underhanded,” and “greedy.”

Pickleball advocates saw the move by Barnes as an underhanded attempt to block their separate proposal to convert six of the 12 existing tennis courts at Point Loma’s Peninsula Tennis Club to pickleball. (One tennis court can be converted into four pickleball courts.) Their proposal for Peninsula would have been large enough to serve as the local pickleball hub pickleball supporters say.

The U-T quoted pickleball supporters in their reaction during the meeting. Kevin Bacon said:

“We’ve been sandbagged. You guys did a bang-up job. You got us. Good for you.” … David Coppa, another pickleball supporter, said Barnes stepped in to help neighboring tennis facility Peninsula — but also to boost its own finances.

“This is about generating income for tennis,” he said, suggesting Barnes will charge relatively high prices for pickleball. “The light came on, and they realized there is money in pickleball.”

And Ryan Redondo, chief executive at Barnes, said all profits from the new pickleball courts will go directly into youth tennis programs.

The two sides had attended the hearing because the parks board had agreed to consider the Peninsula proposal by the pickleball players. “But the surprise counterproposal from Barnes appears to have eliminated the need to convert any courts at Peninsula,” surmised U-T reporter David Garrick.

Garrick reports:

Barnes recently added four pickleball courts, added three more this week and will add a final 12 by the end of July …. Barnes also has 25 tennis courts and seven courts for padel, another racquet sport that is growing in popularity.

The proposal to convert courts at Peninsula has prompted closed-door meetings at City Hall and shouting matches between tennis and pickleball players since it was unveiled two years ago. The turbulence mirrors disputes taking place across the nation, where tennis and pickleball players have battled each other in city after city because they need the same kind of paved hardscape for their courts.  …

City officials say they are reluctant to begin converting any of the city’s 12 tennis complexes, including Barnes and Peninsula. Each is run by nonprofit groups that have been in place for many years. So the city is instead slowly creating pickleball courts in city parks. …. In addition, the city has re-striped many tennis courts to make them suitable for both tennis and pickleball. There are now 109 re-striped courts at 33 locations throughout the city. …

Re-striping efforts often frustrate tennis supporters, who say re-striped courts are a visually unappealing maze of lines. And re-striping is also not fully embraced by many supporters of pickleball, who prefer pickleball-only courts. …

“It strikes me as ludicrous how much time and resources our tennis advocacy committee has had to spend defending and attempting to preserve tennis courts at Peninsula Tennis Club going on two years now,” said Jeff Greenwald of the San Diego District Tennis Association. “We have diverted all of our attention to this matter.”

Todd Sprague, Peninsula’s president, said the 19 courts at Barnes should serve as an interim solution until additional permanent courts can be added in Point Loma’s Robb Field, which includes the Peninsula complex.

“It’s time to stop burdening Peninsula with all of the defense that it has had to do against all the attacks,” he said. “We appreciate that there’s a need for pickleball in the community; that is not lost on us. It would be unprecedented to ask the city to destroy a functioning facility.”

Juliana Humphrey, a leader of the group behind the Pensinsula proposal, said a central pickleball hub should be run by pickleball players.

“Pickleball courts should be run by pickleball players or pros,” she said. “At tennis clubs, pickleball is never a priority — it’s never an equal. It’s kind of a side gig.”

The parks board praised the Barnes proposal, but said that the secretive way it came together shows that tennis and pickleball supporters are still not acting collaboratively or having productive dialogue.

The Pickleball Association of San Diego (PASD) had this to say:

San Diego is still without one dedicated and public pickleball facility in the entire city of 1.5 million residents.

Tennis leadership has promoted a notion of building pickleball courts themselves in implicit exchange for the City disregarding our voice. PASD’s official stance is that tennis clubs should build tennis courts if they’d like to build at all.

We know that this is not a sincere act to advance pickleball, but rather a measure to ensure control of its growth and progress. This is antithetical to a vision for pickleball facilities to be run by the pickleball community with the express interest of pickleball in mind.

Pickleball seeks equitable City treatment and some nominal level of autonomy as its own independent sport. Tennis clubs can elect to build pickleball courts, AND the pickleball community can be permitted and emboldened to foster its own sport too. This is not a case of “one or the other” and it is not mutually exclusive. …

Pickleball courts under tennis control is not the answer. Tennis leadership has treated us with fear and animosity over the last 2.5 years. Coming to defense with money and influence now is to be expected, but it is not in pickleball’s best interest.

Make no mistake: It is not an act for the public good. Contrary, it is a way to retain control. PASD will continue advocating to the City for fair treatment. The fight for fairness, perhaps, has only just begun.

Has the fight for fairness “just begun,” or is this new addition of 19 pickleball courts at Barnes the answer? Stay tuned.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie June 21, 2023 at 11:22 am

Today’s fare offers one conflict over northeast Mission Bay being settled with a compromise, and the other conflict between pickleball and tennis heating up.


Louisa June 21, 2023 at 8:20 pm

Just saw an urban planning video that suggested good city design should require that all public sporting facilities support no less than three sports. Less than that is a poor use of public space.

I liked the concept!


Kevin Bacon June 24, 2023 at 4:08 pm

Barnes once had Pickleball and “kicked us out”. The players were upset and they put in 3 courts to “satisfy”, vowing to tear them out first chance they had.
Now they put in 19 courts.
NOT, to help Pickleball but to support tennis..


Vern June 25, 2023 at 4:01 pm

Couldn’t 101 Ash be converted to a multi-level pickle-ball/pickleminton center, while also serving as a service/support center for the many unhoused in SD?
It’d need to be remediated, of course, but profits from pickle-ball/pickleminton membership dues, tog-shop sales & naming rights could help support the endeavor.


Gravitas June 27, 2023 at 6:21 am
Vern June 27, 2023 at 9:53 am

And coming to backyards nearby?
airbnb pickelball/pickleminton courts.
Wonder if they need additional liability?


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