BY LEM O’NEAL
Ambassador of the American Pickleball Association
Pickleball has established itself as the fastest growing sport, enjoyed by several generations of Los Alamos residents as a fun way to exercise. It’s not a fad, as Lifetime Fitness has committed to have 600 jobs by 2023. Lifetime Fitness is partnering with Major League Pickleball (MLP) and Dynamic Universal Pickleball Rating (DUPR) with the goal of increasing the current 5 million players to 40 million by 2030.
Recreational facilities in Los Alamos designed and appropriate for pickleball do not exist. Shared use of tennis courts for pickleball is not a long-term solution for several reasons, the number one being the lack of ball retention.
A special pickleball facility allows players on one court to play and practice with multiple practice balls without disrupting play on adjacent courts.
Facilities with lighting, wind, sun and snow protection do not exist in Los Alamos. There is no place for the public to practice this fun sport during the evening hours, in the heat of the day, or when it is raining or snowing. A cover over the facility increases utilization and reduces maintenance. The extra capital cost for the cover has proven to be justified. Opelika Pickleball leads the nation with its innovative 12-court tournament class facility. It was so successful that it built a second identical facility after its initial success.
It would be very cost effective to cover and convert Pinon Park into an 8 court pickleball tournament facility. This facility could be used by local residents as well as for tournaments. It simply positions Los Alamos for residents’ future needs for evening recreational facilities and other weather-restrictive times.
Los Alamos cannot convert Pinon to pickleball without building a tennis tournament facility first. Pickleball can provide the natural progression of learning for our youth needed to play competitive tennis.
As for the rest of the existing smaller unlit geographically separated facilities, these can be used by the adjacent local residents as always. Some of these are double-lined for pickleball and tennis, if requested by residents, the use of these facilities may be economical, but has only limited benefits to the greater community. If the county does not have a maintenance budget for these facilities, local users can be authorized to keep them free of debris, slush and standing water to extend the life of the new pavement the county is using. Cracks in the new surfaces should be repaired under warranty when the courts are serviced.
So why does Los Alamos need tournament tennis and pickleball facilities? The answer is for the health and well-being of residents.