Pickleball courts OK’d for Morro Bay’s Del Mar Park

In the coming months, a nearly $40,000 upgrade to temporary pickleball courts at Del Mar Park will give the sport’s enthusiasts a permanent place to play in Morro Bay.

An impassioned group of Morro Bay pickleball advocates got their wish Tuesday when the City Council’s unanimously approved permanent pickleball courts at the park.

The Morro Bay Pickeball Club, which has more than 150 active participants, has been using an asphalt hockey rink at Del Mar Park for two hours each day on weekdays as a makeshift pickleball court. While no set timeline has been set for replacing the rink with the completion pickleball courts, club members anticipate having a new facility in place by the fall.

The court will be resurfaced, with permanent netting installed. The club puts up temporary netting and then removes it each day at the existing rink.

Pickleball is a racquet sport that’s sometimes described as a cross between tennis, badminton and pingpong, using a Wiffle ball. It can be played by people of all ages and skill levels.

“I play about four times per week,” said Elliott Gong, a club member. “It’s a way fun to exercise. On any given day, there are 20 to 50 people who come to play. It’s not only people from Morro Bay. I’ve met visitors from as far away as Tennessee and Canada.”

Pickleball is particularly attractive to seniors — who make up more than half of the Morro Bay community — because it doesn’t require as much physical mobility as tennis.

“It’s a healthy release and a way for aging folks to make friends,” said Karen Rosen, 64.

More than 20 people spoke during the council meeting Tuesday, including some roller derby supporters who said losing the rink would be a great loss to those who like to skate. The majority supported pickleball, however.

“Santa Rosa Park in San Luis Obispo is the last place we have to skate,” said Sharon Bruce, of the Central Coast Roller Derby organization. “I’m heartbroken because this takes something away from the community. You have to take care of your community, and that’s something we’ve done by donating money we raise to the Women’s Shelter and other causes.”

Bruce noted, however, that the skate rink is in poor condition for skating.

Council members Christine Johnson and Noah Smukler said they recognized that losing the skate rink would have an impact. Johnson suggested exploring other site options, including consulting with county Supervisor Bruce Gibson, whose district includes Morro Bay, on possibilities for a similar facility.

The cost of converting the rink to a permanent pickleball court is $37,800, said Sam Taylor, the city’s deputy city manager.

The Morro Bay Pickleball Club has raised $20,000 toward the conversion and the Morro Bay Senior Citizens, Inc. has committed $10,000 to the project.

The city has $17,800 in available park impact fees to use toward the project, and still needs to work out precisely how to use the private funds. Taylor said impact fees can’t be used for maintenance, just capital projects, so the city money probably would be allocated for construction.

The city will require the pickleball players to pay a use fee to help cover ongoing maintenance, and the court will need to be locked at night to protect it from damage from such uses as skateboarding.

Councilman John Headding noted the community health benefits of pickleball, as well as boost to the city’s economy from pickleball players who come to play and then spend money in Morro Bay. Clinics and local tournaments held at Del Mar Park already have attracted crowds.

“What’s best for Morro Bay?” Headding said. “It comes down to revenue production and community health.”