Bring a public pickleball complex to Henderson County!
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If you are in or near Henderson County:
Hours for FREE pickleball at Athletics and Activity Center on South Grove Street in Hendersonville. Beginners class 9-10 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday. We'll LOAN you a paddle if you need one, just show up! We'll be happy to meet you!
Want to learn the basic rules? Click here for a quick rule sheet and video!
Pickleball has become possibly the hottest growing sport in America, and it is time that Henderson County taxpayers had their own public pickleball complex, similar to the phenomenal facility built in Griffin, Georgia.
The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), citing numbers from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, believes there are over 2.8 MILLION players, and that number is quickly growing. Their U.S. Open of Pickleball in Naples, Florida had 800 players two years ago, 1,400 last year, and this year a whopping 2,000+ players, playing over 4,000 matches over six days. CBS Sports Network now shows the event on their channel. A new online broadcasting network called "Pickleball Channel" showed this video which shows how huge pickleball has grown:
One Facebook group, "Pickleball Forum," already has 20,000 members, and fans are seeing pickleball matches online, live, and free all the time.
Pickleball has grown so much, the national championships in Indian Wells in California is charging hundreds of dollars for elite pro players just to get a locker room. Yes, pro players.
Pickleball is an "everyman" and "everywoman" sport. Indeed, it is very gender-diverse, as 47% of pickleball players are ladies. While it is true the base of pickleball players are active retirees and the middle-aged, it is quickly becoming a sport played by youth and/or minorities.
Local events have shown the potential of pickleball in Henderson County, even with limited courts for public use. The Xcel Sportsplex had an event with over 12 courts. The Lelia Patterson Center had a four-day event with about 100 players overall. There was a tournament in nearby Lake Lure on tennis courts with pickleball lines taped on. In the region, country clubs and private homes are having pickleball courts installed.
But those are all PRIVATE clubs. Indeed, the club at Xcel expressly states their club is for the very top players only, and charges dues.
With obesity being such a problem now (over 30% of adults and 16% of teenagers in North Carolina obese according to StateOfObesity.org), we simply cannot make a dent in the obesity rate with this kind of mentality.
There is only one public place to play pickleball in Henderson County: The Athletics and Activity Center gymnasium (or "AAC") on South Grove Street in Hendersonville. And it has really taken off. Currently, 45% of hours in the facility are dedicated to pickleball, playing on just three courts in the mornings and sometimes early afternoons from Monday through Saturday, with the facility closed on Sundays. On Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:00 a.m., there's a beginner's class.
Anyone can come and a paddle is even loaned to you to get started. And it's FREE to play thanks to the generosity of Henderson County taxpayers. The number of people who have played here are in the hundreds.
The problem is the hours are only in the mornings, and way too few courts. The working class simply cannot play during those hours. Also, the facility is usually so packed that players have to wait long times to play shortened games.
With all the groundswell of support with just this, imagine what would happen if this sport really was accessible to all...
The pickleball community is quickly organizing, recognizing that any new sport that is brought to the AAC would jeopardize the hours of the only public facility in Henderson County. While we are reasonably sure that those hours are protected (for now), and we are grateful for them, ultimately, in addition to those hours, a NEW COMPLEX JUST FOR PICKLEBALL IS NOT ONLY A NECESSITY BUT IS INEVITABLE!
Pickleball is big business. The brand new facility in Griffin, Georgia, is estimated to have an economic impact of at least $1 million to $1.2 million every year, and was built for just $1.55 million. It features 18 courts, top-of-the-line playing surface, changing rooms in the bathrooms, a full concession stand, canopies covering bleachers, and many other practical features. They already have turned away events!
What our new group, Blue Ridge Pickleball, is asking for is a new complex built, possibly at the "Meritor Park" site in Fletcher, built as close the Griffin model as possible, with a few practical additions.
Imagine the Fletcher Area Business Association hosting business events there. Imagine a group like WNC Cornhole hosting cornhole events there. Now imagine the tourism revenue that hosting events here would bring.
Also consider a facility like this WILL bring more businesses here. What a great selling point! At the Griffin complex, a banner advertising a prominent housing development for active retirees flat-out said that if people moved there, they can play all the pickleball they want!
This facility will PRINT money for Henderson County!
Dennis Justice, Founder of Blue Ridge Pickleball, went on a tour of the facility and broadcasted it live on Facebook. Over 3,800 views already. This tour, over 30 minutes long, gives a visual to what a complex might look like in Fletcher or elsewhere.
And we INSIST it is open for public use. Even the much-hyped softball complex in Asheville is locked most of the time, not for actual public use. And over $2 million was given in public funds for it.
What Blue Ridge Pickleball is asking of Henderson County taxpayers and their elected officials is:
1. Secure all existing hours at the AAC for public pickleball. (We by the way are currently offering to donate a United States flag flown over the U.S. Capitol to be hung in the gymnasium as a way of thanking Parks and Recreation for allowing pickleball there. Every gym needs a flag.)
2. Either open up the AAC on Sundays for six more hours of pickleball or give us additional time in the late afternoon, say Mondays and Thursdays, so the working class can play, too. Now that the County and Board of Education have a new protocol to rent out facilities, it may be time to move some of the basketball to middle school and high school gyms.
3. WE ARE REQUESTING THAT FLETCHER AND HENDERSON COUNTY SPLIT THE COST OF A FEASIBILITY STUDY OF THE MERITOR PARK SITE FOR A PICKLEBALL COMPLEX. This really should be approved by November. There is a high probability the land can be used.
4. We are requesting that a pickleball complex be funded by one of three options:
a. PARTF grant. This is a state-funded matching grant for Parks and Recreation. The maximum that can be rewarded is currently $500,000. If both Henderson County and Fletcher work a deal to split the costs of such a facility and co-signed on a grant application, it would greatly increase the chance of winning the grant and reducing the local cost.
The feasibility study needs to be approved by November to give us adequate time to be in next year's PARTF grant.
b. Funds from the potential sale of the Boyd car lot. If the Board of Education and County Commission do not work out a deal to use that land for Hendersonville High School by next Februrary, County Commission will sell that land. We are requesting that like a previous sale of property was 100% dedicated to artificial turf at schools, 100% of the proceeds of the Boyd car lot land be dedicated for a project like our pickleball complex, and for other needed fixes in our parks.
c. Short term bond, no longer than five years.
5. This facility shall be run by a parks and recreation department (to be negotiated which one), but Blue Ridge Pickleball is designated as the sole tournament and event provider. We would be put in charge of at least three public events: Apple Festival tournament, Senior Games tournament, and a 4th of July tournament for Fletcher. We would guarantee that at least two courts are ALWAYS open to the public for free play, even during tournaments, meaning tournament players can not use them, for any tournament not at regional-level or higher. This would even include the state championship.
By designating Blue Ridge Pickleball as the sole tournament provider, it gives us the ability to approach the hospitals, brewers, and other businesses to seek corporate sponsorships of courts, tournaments, etc. with both Fletcher and Henderson County guaranteed a modest percentage of all such sponsorships.
6. Blue Ridge Pickleball is given a fair grant to seek tournaments and to start high school pickleball. If the swimming community had a swimming complex, it is certain all the schools would share practice time and meets there. We would do the same.
7. IF it is at the "Meritor Park" site, the official name would be "Blue Ridge Pickleball at Meritor Park" on the directional sign. If it was at a different site, it would simply be called "Blue Ridge Pickleball" unless we secure a naming rights sponsor.
What we suggest is such a naming rights deal should cover 10% of the cost of the facility ($160,000) if it's a ten-year deal. A "forever" naming rights deal should cover 30% of the cost ($480,000). It can be negotiated for the organization (a major brewer, grocery story, hospital, etc.) to repay the amount over 10 years.
Nothing would be better advertising than to help bring the fastest growing sport in America to our area in this way!
8. We want to have a pickleball tournament, possibly Saturday, November 3. We have already been told there may be a scheduling issue already due to basketball, so we may wish to have it at either East Henderson or North Henderson. This would help show the public just how big pickleball has grown.
9. The complex is as close to the Griffin model as possible, with more courts under a roof, all lighted at night, and fiber Internet so we can broadcast events online in high definition. (Since we want to partner with the schools for pickleball programming, there is a chance we can work with the state's initiative to get fiber internet in all the schools.) We also would ask to be allowed to seek beer permits for tournaments.
This complex is less costly than the highly unpopular proposed indoor gun range at Blue Ridge Community College. Less costly than a full recreation center at the same site or other sites. And it would be the finest pickleball complex in the state immediately.
And unlike Asheville, who to their credit persisted on the softball complex despite serious issues with the land used, the Blue Ridge Pickleball complex WILL be open for public use as much as physically possible. Again, on land that was acquired specifically for recreation.
EVERY player who plays, whether they intended to or not, is helping fight the obesity crisis. Our group motto is "Pickleball for all."
It is time to think of the working class. The active retirees. Bring sports tourism to our county. This land, all 93 acres, was acquired long ago by Fletcher intended for recreation, but because most of the land is in a floodplain, only four of them could be built on, about the size of the Griffin complex. If a softball complex could have been built there, even 20 acres, there is no doubt Henderson County Commission would have done the right thing and gave up some money to help Fletcher build it.
It makes perfect sense for Henderson County and Fletcher to partner on this!
This is the least expensive and best option right now for that land. And if not there, let's get this built elsewhere.
Do...not...ALLOW Asheville to beat us to the punch again.
Let's get those tournaments here. Let's "get our play on" and give back to our families.
PLEASE SIGN and explain why you want a pickleball complex here! Please go to County Commission meetings and write letters to the editor to the Hendersonville Times-News.
And come by if you can to the Athletics and Activity Center Monday through Saturday mornings and play!
Let's DO IT!
Blue Ridge Pickleball
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