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Eight dedicated pickleball courts coming to Amherstburg

Two hardcourt surfaces for tennis and pickleball will be changed into eight dedicated pickleball courts at the Libro Centre due to a motion passed during budget deliberations.

The 2024 budget includes $350,000 in new money for the project, with director of parks, facilities, recreation and culture Heidi Baillargeon stating her department already has $100,000 set aside. That means the total price of the project is $450,000.

Baillargeon indicated the courts could be located near the football/soccer field towards the rear of the arena building, and there is room for a possible third hard surface court. One tennis court equals eight pickleball courts and the two pre-approved hard court surfaces will see them now used as pickleball-only courts.

Councillor Don McArthur said during last Tuesday’s budget session there are people passionate about tennis in Amherstburg and they are right when pointing out the need for hard court surfaces. A presentation the previous night from Amherstburg Pickleball Association (APA) board member Linda DiPasquale noted there are no dedicated pickleball surfaces in town and there is a desire by the APA to host tournaments and clinics, something that would require dedicated pickleball courts. He said tennis courts could go in at H. Murray Smith Centennial Park down the road.

Councillor Molly Allaire said she didn’t think it was fair to give dedicated pickleball courts just because the APA asked for them. Allaire said it was 36 years since Amherstburg put in new hard court surfaces and said there was nothing for tennis players by putting in dedicated pickleball courts.

“I think this is very unfair,” said Councillor Diane Pouget.

Pouget believed one group was getting what they wanted while the other group was not. She noted there is room designated for tennis courts at H. Murray Smith Centennial Park. (See Page XX for a story on H. Murray Smith Centennial Park discussions.)

Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb voted to change the two hard court surfaces at the Libro Centre into eight pickleball courts, citing the tournament request.

“Pickleball can’t hold tournaments without dedicated courts,” he said.

“Unfortunately in this job, you can’t make everyone happy. I’m open to the idea of a third court. I think eight pickleball courts has to happen.”

Councillor Linden Crain said multi-use courts can still happen elsewhere in the future, adding there are no dedicated pickleball courts in Amherstburg at the present time. He didn’t believe they were saying no to tennis players.

“We’re not saying no to multi-use courts in the future,” said Crain.

Allaire said the town has lost several amenities and she would like to see them brought back, adding she would also like to see basketball courts return. Tennis players also need surfaces in which to play and host events, she stated. She thought the decision was being made before a full report was brought before town council.

“Tennis can’t hold tournaments unless they have three courts,” Allaire said. “How is this fair?”

DiPasquale told council members during her Jan. 15 presentation that there are 180 members in the APA and the sport is growing. She said the APA appreciates the support received to that point, adding there are 14 dedicated courts in Tecumseh and another eight in Kingsville. Dedicated courts can allow the sport to expand in Amherstburg, she envisioned.

The APA is fundraising, she added, with one event being a pasta dinner. DiPasquale added the Harrow Kinsmen Club donated $10,000 to the project.

The decision to turn the two hard court surfaces into eight pickleball courts passed in a 4-3 vote with Mayor Michael Prue, Gibb, McArthur and Crain in favour with Councillor Peter Courtney, Pouget and Allaire opposed.

By Ron Giofu

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