Colchester residents could soon see regulation-size pickleball courts in Airport Park.
The selectboard has approved local pickleballers to expedite town plans to create dedicated pickleball courts. A group of enthusiastic pickleball players has been permitted to repave and paint the park’s two multi-use courts and add four dedicated pickleball courts once they raise the $138,000 construction cost.
Local pickleballer Wayne Davis is spearheading what he calls a “grassroots movement” to fundraise and bring the project to fruition.
“Colchester has prided itself on being a recreation destination,” Davis said. “This could help.”
After fellow pickleballer Jim LeClair measured and researched several parks around town, Airport Park stood out as the preferred location for its space and parking lot. Last month, Davis attended a selectboard meeting to pitch the idea.
In the proposed plan, the horseshoe pit area would be paved to create four regulation-size pickleball courts and adjoin the multi-use courts that host both pickleball and tennis, Davis said. According to parks and recreation director Glenn Cuttitta, only two horseshoe pits will be displaced by the new courts.
While the estimated project cost is $138,000, parks and recreation will provide $15,000 from its recreation impact funds, Cutitta said. Additionally, the selectboard donated $100 to begin fundraising efforts.
The remaining $122,900 will be funded through donations from local businesses and possibly through grants from healthcare facilities, Davis said.
“Healthcare officials talk about fitness, socialization and intergenerational play,” he said. “This sport provides that kind of healthy outlet for seniors.”
Though folks of all ages play the sport, Davis said it’s particularly popular with senior citizens. Pickleball courts, at 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, are smaller than their tennis counterparts and thus require less movement.
“It’s easier on the knees,” Davis explained. For this reason, he’s hopeful local healthcare providers will support the project.
Once funds are raised, the project will likely be contracted by Vermont Tennis Courts and will take two weeks to complete, Davis said. His goal is to have the courts constructed in 2020.
“We definitely need more,” Davis said, adding it’s difficult for the town’s 200 pickleballers to share the courts when only eight people can play per game. “They’re clamoring for space to play.”
According to Davis, there are three regulation-size pickleball courts in Vermont. For Colchester residents, the sport is played on tennis courts with multi-use lines in Airport, Bayside, Fort Ethan Allen and Heritage parks.
The town’s master plan includes constructing three dedicated pickleball courts on the Hazelett property but does not establish a clear timeline, according to Cuttitta. He added the town hopes to alleviate the competing demands of tennis and pickleball players and will carry out construction on the Hazelett property in addition to the possible Airport Park courts.
For now, Davis and his fellow pickleballers, are working to raise funds while the recreation department obtains local permits for the Airport Park project, Cuttitta said.
According to Davis, donations for the courts may be made out to the Colchester Recreation Department with the memo “Pickleball.” Checks may be sent to Linda Wright at 184 Edgewater Dr., Colchester, Vt. 05446 or to the town’s parks and recreation department.
“The town is very supportive of their endeavor,” Cuttitta said. “[We] hope that their fundraising efforts can help us move this project forward.”