Expansion of indoor pickleball sparks talks of new multi-sport complex
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The idea of building an indoor multi-sport complex is being spearheaded by the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs.
Tennis Center Director Loretta Conway was first approached by Randy Wert, vice president of the Steamboat Pickleball Association, about a complex that would meet the needs of not only pickleball enthusiasts but the greater community.
“They play pitch and catch in the school hallways at schools,” Wert said. “They’re having their high school practice sessions when they should be doing their homework or getting a goodnight’s sleep. The more I thought about it, the more all-weather, all-dry sports I could think of that could benefit from this.”
Wert empathizes with the youth sports crowd because of his background in coaching community baseball, basketball and soccer teams when he lived on the East Coast.
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There are close to 5,000 active members of the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs who participate in tennis or pickleball. From the summer of 2017 to 2018, the Tennis Center saw a 26% increase in pickleball court rentals.
The Steamboat Pickleball Association currently has 300 members and only eight outdoor courts. It’s estimated an additional 200 people in the community, who aren’t members of the association, also play the sport. While some indoor tennis courts can be converted for pickleball use, the shared space is just not enough to meet the demands of a growing sport.
The Tennis Center is proposing four different plans, which were presented to the Parks and Recreation Commission at its April 10 meeting.
The first plan would expand the Tennis Center to add five additional indoor courts to the end of the existing tennis building.
The second option calls for construction of a building with room for 12 indoor pickleball courts along with six outdoor courts, which would be constructed on top of the existing clay courts on the northwest corner of the current facility.
The idea of building an entirely new facility — the third option — is what sparked the idea of a multi-purpose facility that the Tennis Center is calling the Ski Town Sports Complex.
The sports complex would include 12 indoor courts and six outdoor courts for pickleball as well as a turf field, basketball courts, a running track, a kids zone and batting cages on the second floor.
“We had three community meetings where over 100 people came, and they wanted to pursue plan three,” Conway said. “I thought that was promising because many of those people that voted were pickleball or tennis players. They were giving us the OK to think about the rest of the community.”
Option three was the most popular until the Tennis Center proposed option four, which would split the complex into two buildings: one dedicated to just pickleball and the second to include the other uses. Conway said she believes pickleball attracts an older crowd while the sports complex attracts a younger crowd.
Building the multisport complex separately still allows space for two soccer and baseball fields, which already exist in the area.
According to Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby, Parks and Recreation commissioners were receptive to the idea but want further details on the costs of building each facility and information on the possibility of utilizing the multi-sport space as a convention center. They also want to consider a phased approach, where one building is built at a time.
“Clearly, it’s a priority for this community,” Cosby said. “There’s been multiple attempts to build an indoor facility. It’s clearly high need. It’s just figuring out how to provide that service and then how to fund it.”
Conway expects cost estimates for the four options to be ready by June 1, then she hopes to bring the idea to Steamboat Springs City Council this summer.
If the project is approved, she hopes to start a capital campaign to fundraise by the end of the year.
In the meantime, Conway continues to brainstorm ideas for sponsorships and how to make it affordable for the Steamboat community.
“We want to hear from people,” she said. “Our goal is to get the right space, set it up properly and have it be the right use. We want batting cages that get removed when people play lacrosse — things that make it as flexible as possible.
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