Park Politics: Wrightsville Beach tennis lobby exposes the leverage,



Wrightsville Beach — Congregated at a public forum to discuss a grant application, the top players from both the pickleball and tennis community were able to influence opinion and impact how the park will be developed shortly. Wrightsville Beach Park.

The alderpersons’ board has instructed the city’s parks and recreation department to explore the possibility of a Parks and Recreation Trust Fund Grant, which the government manages. It will fund $400,000 worth of improvements to the facility for pickleball at the park, specifically five courts for pickleball specifically designed and the lighting of all courts.

The growing player base of the sport of pickleball is known to parks and recreation departments across the country. As per Katie Ryan, program supervisor for Wrightsville Beach Parks and Rec, the increase in players makes this grant application confident. Ryan organized an evening meeting on Wednesday nights in the town hall, which is another stage in the grant application process where tennis players came to their strength in the hope of improving their game.

The issue at hand is an additional plan to help the growing community of players until the five courts they have built could be finished (should this grant ever be approved). When the tennis courts are renovated shortly, the town plans to convert one of the four courts to tennis courts — and will remove one tennis court in favor of four courts for pickleball.

If the grant funds are secured and the new tennis courts are built and striped, the court will be converted into tennis courts.

(Port City Daily/Alexandria Sands Williams)

For the five courts that will remain in place and the remainder of the grant, the estimated cost is $800,000. The gift will pay for only half of the charges, while the town hopes to raise funds from private sources to pay for a portion of the cost.

Lisa Weeks, a former board of aldermen member, was present as a representative of the tennis club in Wrightsville Beach. She was dismayed that the tennis courts at Wrightsville Beach are lined with lines for pickleball (depending on the day). There are set times for tennis and pickleball games on the courts).

“I support the project, but the tennis people I represent feel like there’s an inequity,” Weeks stated. “[The pickle ballers are] getting five new courts plus the re-striping of the fourth tennis court, and there’s still pickleball lines on the three other courts.”

Weeks later renounced her leverage and said that she and a coworker were ready to turn on their Rolodex to get $200,000 in private financing to fund the project. “But unless those three tennis courts are purely tennis, I think it would be difficult to do that,” she added.

Wrightsville Beach Park (Port City Daily photo/Alexandria Sands Williams)

After that, players who spoke pointed out that their many tennis courts within the county, but there are only six designated courts for pickleball. Holly Manning, the new president of the Cape Fear Pickleball Club, claimed the club boasts 497 members. She estimates the number of players within the region to be around 1500.

“If they have so few courts in the county, they’ll all be coming to these courts, and I feel it’s going to take over the tennis,” said a Wrightsville Beach local in the tennis crowd. “I don’t think Wrightsville Beach has to provide for the whole county.”

Tennis players claimed that the courts were only a little short of being adequate for USTA league play and that their group was set to receive an upgrade. Many felt that the presence of tennis courts with pickleball lines made judging those back lines difficult. Some players claimed they don’t have to look at tennis players.

There were moments of pointing fingers and shouting following a confrontation between one of the main pickleballers who questioned Weeks, who responded that Weeks had already addressed the issue for a long time and that other players ought to have the opportunity to speak up. The pickleball demanded Weeks provide specific instances where tennis players could not get a place to play in the park because of the large number of players — a situation that Weeks and others said was all-encompassing.

“Send out a newsletter to your membership and let them know to look for Jim or me on the court,” the player said, which led to the tension to be high.

The objective of the gathering was to strengthen the town’s grant application to the state. Parks and Rec supervisor Ryan wanted to gather as many affirmations that support the plan as possible. In pursuit of the new tennis courts and the temporary striping of the tennis court already in place are instructions from the alderpersons’ board, Ryan stated.

There is a chance that additional discussions are likely to be required. When the grant application comes to be submitted in May, “I think we’ll be able to come to a compromise,” Ryan stated.

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