Following a spat between Gilroy’s tennis and pickleball players, city officials allowed the paddle sport athletes to temporarily convert the tennis courts at Sunrise Park for their use.
Pickleball players, including Bruce Serpa of Gilroy, recently painted lines on the two tennis courts and added smaller nets to create four separate courts for pickleball.
More than 30 pickleballers from South County, San Benito County and beyond celebrated the conversion Dec. 11 with a series of friendly matches.
Pre-March 2020, the City of Gilroy Recreation offered an indoor pickleball program at the Wheeler Center, but it was suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. However, city officials decided to allow pickleball on courts 5 and 6 at Las Animas Park temporarily until indoor activities could resume.
But the decision created a divide between the pickleball players and the Gilroy Tennis Club, which maintains the courts in the city park. Tennis club members expressed frustration at the number of pickleballers using the courts, and pointed to tape adhered to the courts, which left a permanent residue that forced the two courts to be resurfaced.
The city later resumed its indoor pickleball program at Wheeler Center, but players decried what they saw as limited hours.
The pickleball and tennis players have aired their differences at recent city council meetings.
Serpa said he has been working with City Administrator Jimmy Forbis on a permanent home for pickleball, and added Forbis was instrumental in allowing the temporary lines at Sunrise Park.
Serpa said he purchased the paint, and the pickleball players have donated funds to offset the costs.
“Everyone has been very supportive,” he said. “The community of pickleball is binding together.”
Steve Sutton, director of USA Pickleball’s West Region, was on hand for the grand opening event.
He pointed to the turnout, which drew players of all ages, adding that pickleball is a sport that can be easily picked up.
According to the U.S. Pickleball Association, the sport combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, and is played on a badminton-size court with a modified tennis net. Players use a paddle and a plastic ball with holes.
“There’s a lot of excitement about the sport,” Sutton said, adding that he fully expects pickleball to become an Olympic sport in the coming years. “It’s a sport that’s here to say.”
Signs have been posted outside of the courts, encouraging residents to give the city feedback on the temporary conversion.