Quest for Pickleball Location Drags On in Ocean City

Quest for Pickleball Location Drags On in Ocean City

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Don King and Don Hepner are among a group of Pickleball advocates encouraging the city to build permanent courts in town. Hepner first came to City Council in 2010 to make the proposal.

The search for a Pickleball site has put Ocean City in a pickle.

The latest proposed location was thrown into question Monday (Dec. 28) when the city abandoned a project to convert a public parking lot at Shelter Road and Tennessee Avenue into new Pickleball courts.

City Council instead approved a change order to restore the site back into a parking lot, which serves a nearby public boat ramp. The vote was taken at Council’s last meeting of the year.

The $75,650 change order also includes refurbishing the Fifth Street tennis courts to fix a big crack in three of them and repair some blemishes in two others.

With no clear location for the Pickleball courts on the horizon, Mayor Jay Gillian hopes that representatives of the Pickleball and tennis communities can work together to find a solution that accommodates both. Gillian has directed Mike Allegretto, the city’s director of community services, to meet with both sides in the quest for a Pickleball location.

“I’m going to let them talk,” Gillian said, while noting that he does not have a preferred site.

Pickleball representatives want the city to convert some of the little-used outdoor tennis courts at the Ocean City Intermediate School at 18th Street into the Pickleball site.

“Those tennis courts are sitting empty most, if not all, of the time,” said Pickleball spokesman Don Hepner, of Central Avenue.

Hepner believes the Intermediate School offers a good compromise because it is centrally located and could accommodate Pickleball and tennis players alike. He said some of the existing tennis courts could remain there, even if the site is also used for Pickleball.

Tennis representative Terry McKenna said tennis players support the idea of bringing Pickleball to town, but do not have a location in mind.

“We don’t want any existing tennis courts sacrificed for this plan,” said McKenna, a resident of the Gardens Parkway.

No timetable was given Monday for selecting the Pickleball site. Gillian stressed that Allegretto’s talks with the Pickleball and tennis representatives are aimed at “finally putting it all to rest.”

Pickleball is a tennis-like game played with paddles and a wiffleball on a small court. Hepner said it is the fastest growing sport in the United States. He estimated there are about 150 Pickleball players in Ocean City.

Another Pickleball representative, Don King, of Haven Avenue, said other shore communities have been inspired by Ocean City’s interest in the sport and are building their own Pickleball courts.

“Ocean City was known as Pickleball East,” King said.