Pickleball lovers can play the racquet sport in downtown Hays by the end of September, if Hays city commissioners approve installation of two courts at their next regular meeting on Thursday.
At the request of residents, the city may install two pickleball courts on a city tennis court in Municipal Park at First and Main streets.
The pickleball courts would take the place of one existing tennis court, said city parks director Jeff Boyle, speaking Thursday at the commission’s work session. The installation would take place at the same time the city’s three other tennis courts are resurfaced in mid-September. The courts will be ready for play seven to 10 days after that, Boyle said.
“We’ve had a lot of folks come forward wanting pickleball courts,” said Boyle. “We’re asking to go ahead and resurface three tennis courts ... and on the fourth court actually put two pickleball courts in.”
The courts were last resurfaced in 2004 and are in need of another resurfacing, Boyle said, citing big white spots on the courts that indicate the surface has worn off.
The city had budged $50,000 in the 2019 Special Park and Recreation Budget for resurfacing. Thirteen companies were notified of the job, and two bid. The low bid came in $13,525 below budget, from Hellas Construction Inc. in Austin, Texas, which bid $36,475, Boyle said.
Hellas is well known in the business, according to supporting documents from Boyle. The company has done work for high schools, city and county governments and NCAA teams. Fort Hays State University hired Hellas to install turf on the football field and in its indoor training facility.
Right now people are playing pickleball at the Hays Recreation Center, 1105 Canterbury Drive, and at the old Hays High School gym on 13th Street.
“Hays Rec actually has a league going on out there,” Boyle said. “I’ve never played it, it’s kind of like tennis, except they use basically a whiffle ball, and a small paddle, and the courts are shorter, obviously. I talked to Hays Rec and it’s very popular.”
Hays City Commissioner Eber Phelps told Boyle to prepare to hear from tennis players.
“Not to rain on your parade, but I just want to call your attention to what’s going to happen,” Phelps said. “You’re going to have all your tennis players coming in and complaining. I’ve played on those courts for years and you have people coming down there and they want to play tennis using a volleyball, or play tennis using Frisbees, or whatever, and then they don’t really understand tennis court etiquette.”
And because the courts are lit at night until 1 a.m., they also attract people who want to skateboard, roller blade and operate remote control cars, he said.
“I’m not going to try and put down pickleball,” Phelps said, “but I bet you that you get that going down there and you’re going to have some issues.”
Commissioner Sandy Jacobs praised the idea, saying it’s a new sport that is attracting both young and old alike.
“Those two activities seem very compatible to me, pickleball and tennis,” Jacobs said. “I don’t think we’ll have any more skateboarders than we have today, I don’t think that is going to change. If we do not have enough tennis courts, then that’s a whole other subject. I can’t speak to that, I don’t play tennis, but I haven’t heard from anybody.”
Boyle said the staff have discussed the possible concerns for several weeks.
“There’s been times where all four courts are played on and there’s been times where just one court,” he said. “Tennis seems to have dropped off a little bit over the last few years. I’m not discarding the sport ... but it sure seems like we have plenty of tennis courts.”
City Commissioner Shaun Musil spoke out in favor of the move, citing a pickleball tournament in town a few months ago.
“Pickleball is pretty popular right now,” Musil said. “It’s bringing people to Hays to play tournaments. I think tennis is important, but this is something new, and I think it’s a great idea.”
Commissioner Ron Mellick said he’s talked talked to quite a few tennis players who are now playing pickleball.
“So it seems compatible,” Mellick said.
The pickleball courts can easily be converted back to a tennis court if that’s ever needed, Boyle said.
As part of the resurfacing work, Hellas will remove the old caulking in the seams, clean out the seams, then add new caulking.
It also will fill in the hairline cracks, which should cover them up for five years or so, until they re-emerge.
The commissioners voted to move the resurfacing matter forward to this Thursday, when they will officially vote on it.