Letter: The Steamboat Tennis & Pickleball Center deserves our support

The Steamboat Pilot & Today recently ran two pieces focusing on technical disagreements between the Steamboat Tennis & Pickleball Center and the City Council. What is missing from these stories is the heroic steps the center has taken to respond to the dramatic growth in enthusiasm for pickleball in Routt County.

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the nation. Initially, the center met the strong community demand by jerry rigging several indoor and outdoor tennis courts. But this short-term solution became inadequate as local players recruited their family and friends to play.

So the center took a significant financial risk to meet this community demand. Its plan calls for building 12 indoor and eight outdoor pickleball courts. The community stepped up enthusiastically by contributing $7.2 million thus far from 425 mostly local sources. The balance of the required funds will be financed by a private loan of up to $4.8 million. No local tax dollars have been spent on the pickleball expansion project. Some outstanding environmental issues still need to be resolved and the center is working hard to meet those requirements. The eight new outdoor pickleball courts are finished and filled with Steamboat residents. Work is proceeding on the indoor courts so that young and old can play on cold winter afternoons.

The center has delivered big time for Steamboat’s pickleball players. But now it needs more help refurbishing the other half of the center: the facilities for its award winning tennis program. The white tennis bubble, familiar to us all, sorely needs a new membrane. The City Council last year provided $500,000 as a partial payment for that purpose, but costs have increased significantly. Other unfunded requirements for the tennis bubble include a new HVAC system, improved lighting, and other infrastructure necessities. Funds raised for pickleball cannot be used for this purpose.

The center experiences some 75,000 visits per year from over 7,000 individuals. About 20% of this total are out of town visitors who bring revenue to the city. But 80% are Routt County residents, including students, who benefit directly from the center. So this is primarily a local treasure that serves local needs and deserves strong support from local government.

Given how much the center has contributed to local pickleball players without any cost to the city, now is the time for the city to be even more generous to meet the needs of the other half of the Steamboat Tennis & Pickleball Center.

Hans Binnendijk
Steamboat Springs and Washington, D.C.

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