COLORADO SPRINGS AREA PICKLEBALL HISTORY as of 2016
"Thank you Bob Holman for keeping records and writing up this wonderful history of Pickleball's start in Colorado Springs!"
PREFACE: This is a story about a local sport with meager beginnings which grew to a well-organized, fast growing organization, totally supported by volunteers. Pickleball provides great health benefits to players of all ages and skill levels. Our organization sponsors major tournaments that attract visiting players from all over North America.
THE EARLY DAYS : In 2003, Keith Bisel, a USAPA roving Ambassador, put a notice in the newspaper to come to Monument Valley Park (MVP) to learn pickleball. A handful of prospects (Steve and Ramona Boone, Sue Jackson, John Foss, and Norm Silver) showed up, started playing every Saturday and chalking the lines. Eventually CoS Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services (PR&CS) approved permanent pickleball lines for 5 courts, painted by a group of dedicated players. By 2011 there were 75 players on the email list kept by Val Olsen, which was later turned over to Bob Holman. In 2011 and 2012 Steve and Ramona Boone gave free pickleball lessons at noon every Saturday from June through August to highlight the game. At this point we also came to realize that we needed to raise money to create a dedicated pickleball venue, and the easiest way to do that was to have tournaments. The next step would to be to form a club, which would organize the volunteers and run the tournaments.
FROM RAGTAG TO RECOGNITION: In early March, 2012, Jeff Norton and Bob Holman were partnering on the far NE corner of the then “pot-holed” 90+ year-old asphalt MVP courts. Jeff stepped back for a shot, and fell backwards into a depression in the court. That did it! A call to the Principal Planner, Chris Lieber at PR&CS resulted in a meeting with Jeff and Bob, where they learned what must happen to get court-repair action--a brief presentation to the monthly PR&CS Board meeting, demonstrating our needs and most importantly how we could help fund this effort. If approved by their Board, we could then earn a formal spot on their next monthly agenda. PR&CS had many competing interests and few on the PR&CS Advisory Board knew about pickleball. We shared a startling 30 day, MVP court usage survey, showing that for every one tennis player there were ten pickleballers (30 tennis players vs. 310 pickleball players during the month of May). In contrast, 30 years ago, there was always a waiting line of tennis players at MVP.
Our 2012 presentation by Charlie Rush to the PR&CS Advisory Board included these benefits to the city: improved MVP security (Pickleball player presence was reducing the vagrant/gang/graffiti factor); all-inclusive (all-age, all skill-level) and social activity; a "Life Sport"--if you can walk, you can play, a natural racket sport evolution for seniors; a natural entry-level racket sport for youth (small racket, big ball); a FUN aerobic exercise for a healthy lifestyle; tournament potential to enhance economic vitality of Colorado Springs; and a self-sustaining partnership with the City using tournament revenue for court development and maintenance.
This presentation was well received by the Board and they suggested that both tennis and pickleball groups meet with staff and discuss needs, maintenance requirements for pickleball courts, possible new courts for new activities, and to work on developing a relationship. In response, Jeff Norton, Charlie Rush, and Nancy Steffy met at PR&CS with Chris Lieber and executives from the Tennis Association. The purpose: to lay out the next steps in a partnership with our clubs to help grow the sport of pickleball in the City. A good spirit of compromise and coordination was established. The recommendations were to create a Friends-type group, seek financial support, create a budget, and develop more specific plans prior to coming back to the Board.
The Gazette featured us on the front page in January, 2012 with a photo showing a dozen of us pickleballers shoveling off 18" of snow at MVP. Other Gazette articles that year included these headlines: “PICKLEBALL PLAYERS TOLD TO RAISE CASH FOR COURTS” and “OLDER ATHLETES RELISH IN SPORT”.
FROM RECOGNITION TO ORGANIZING: In 2012 the Pikes Peak Pickleball Club was formed. See Exhibit B for former and current officers. Bylaws were adopted by the members. Dues were set at $20. New T-shirts with a logo designed by our retired Navy Seal, Andy Vittitoe, proclaims, "COLORADO SPRINGS PICKLEBALL HAS ALTITUDE!" Friends of Pikes Peak Pickleball was subsequently established as a 501 (c) (3) to raise money, tax free. The first year's dues were seed money for the forthcoming tournament, a 2-day proof of concept, nationally advertised pickleball tournament in September, 2012. See Exhibit A for all tournament details. It was a great success, and the first ever sanctioned tournament in Colorado. Also, we gave over 150 new player lessons in 2012. In November, 2012, we proudly briefed the PR&CS Advisory Board and presented them with a check for $500. Succeeding tournaments produced checks to PR&CS of $1,000 in 2013, and $500 in 2014. In 2014, we also gave $650 to Friends of Monument Valley Park.
FROM SEMI-PRO TO PRO: After several years of rapid growth and several successful tournaments, we were now actively supported by the Pikes Peak Community Tennis Association, the Friends of Monument Valley Park, and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services (PR&CS). In 2013, thanks to the persistent efforts of Vice President Jeff Norton, PR&CS sponsored a community outreach process involving comments and a public meeting with residents and businesses within a mile of Monument Valley Park. Based on the overwhelming support for pickleball at that community meeting and a commitment from the Great Plains Regional Co-directors, Steve and Ramona Boone, to host the Inaugural 2015 USAPA Great Plains Regional Pickleball Tournament in Colorado Springs given an adequate number of courts, the Parks & Rec Advisory Board approved fully converting the 5 old dual-use asphalt tennis courts into a 13-court dedicated MVP pickleball venue. The conversion was finished in 2014 in time to support the 3rd Annual Pikes Peak or Bust Tournament. Also in 2014, we changed the name of our club to Pikes Peak Pickleball Association (PPPA) which now had some 400 members, an elected Board, a professional looking website, and 15 very active committees ( See Exhibit C}, with 35-40 prospective players also taking part in our free, every Saturday training sessions. The added number of courts was also a welcome addition to advancing the Sport of pickleball in Colorado Springs. Based on a 30-day direct survey, we averaged over 70 players per day, playing about 2.3 hours each (the most intensive use of any PR&CS facility in the city). That same year, the 10-year Parks Masterplan update took place and several community meetings were well supported by our PPPA members. Their numerous inputs helped ensure that pickleball facility improvements were prominently included in the Plan approved by City Council in late 2014, and specifically that a more permanent and cost-effective post-tension concrete court solution for the MVP courts could be considered and funded by the City in the future.
FROM ASPHALT TO CONCRETE: From 2012 through 2015, PR&CS had been spending approximately about $33,000 a year to repair the 90+ year old asphalt courts from the damage incurred each winter from the freeze-thaw cycles that propagated numerous cracks and mini “pot-holes” in the court playing surfaces. The problem was made even worse by the fact that the original MVP courts were built on expansive soils which promoted surface cracking every year in spite of the expensive annual repairs. So with the 10-year “pickleball friendly” Parks Masterplan approved by City Council, PPPA in early 2015 proposed to the Parks & Rec Advisory Board that a 15-court post-tension concrete “50-year” low/no maintenance solution be pursed for the MVP pickleball venue. The Parks & Recreation Advisory Board unanimously approved the 15-court proposal with a planned budget of $350,000. Accordingly, PR&CS in 2015 included $100,000 in the City’s proposed 2016 budget. Jeff Norton submitted an application to the City Council Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax (LART) Committee requesting another $25,000 in capital improvement for the upgrade which was fully supported by the Committee and also included in the City’s proposed 2016 budget. In 2015 and 2016, the marvelous Fundraising and Grant Writing talents of Alia Rieker and Gayle Humm were unleashed. PPPA provided $81,000 from private and business donations and its cash reserves to the upgrade cause and received another $115,000 in grants from Lyda Hill Holdings and the El Pomar Foundation. This resulted in $321,000 in available 2016 funding for the upgrade. Based on this funding response, PR&CS began the contracting process for the court upgrade of MVP. However, a soils analysis indicated that the expansive soils problem at MVP was more significant than originally understood requiring removal of the bad soil down to 3 feet across the entire 15-court footprint and replacement with road grade material to ensure a properly engineered post-tension concrete solution. The added cost of removing and replacing the bad expansive soil added significant cost to the upgrade; however, an “anonymous donor” came to the rescue to make up the difference and close the deal. Based on a competitive bids managed by PR&CS and supported by PPPA, the City awarded a separate contract for the soil removal and replacement and another contract for the technical work to install the post-tension concrete courts. The winning technical contractor, Sport Court of the Rockies, installed the post-tension concrete as well as fencing, flag pole, sidewalks, landscaping, administrative area, surface coatings, line striping and pickleball posts and nets for the 15 courts. Included in the bid price was the USAPA-recommended best practice of including a vapor barrier under the concrete slab to eliminate any subsurface moisture from wicking into the concrete during the winter freeze-thaw cycles well as adding subsurface crack mitigation technology to prevent any cracking if it were to occur from crossing into the playing surfaces of the 15 courts. The resulting final engineered MVP upgrade was completed in time to support the 2016 2nd Annual Great Plains Regional Tournament with 342 players attending from 25 States, Canada, and Mexico. This court upgrade will provide a maintenance-free world-class venue for many years to come.
MEMBERSHIP: As of December, 2016, there are 590 members, 60/40 female to male. The age range is 8 to 89, once again proving that pickleball is for everyone. Our age diversity represents the enormous impact the boomers have on all aspects of life: 27% are between 51-60 yrs., another 40% are between 61-70 yrs. and 18% are between 71-80 yrs. representing 85% of our members. 8% are in the 30-50 age range.
EXPANSION BEYOND MONUMENT VALLEY PARK: See this link for other pickleball sites, both indoors and outdoors. In 2014, PPPA participated in multiple public meetings to finalize development for the John Venezia Community Park in Northeastern Colorado Springs. The initial park design did not include any pickleball facilities in this new park venue. As a result of this interaction, a state-of-the-art 4-court post-tension concrete pickleball venue was added to the park design, including constructing one of the 6 tennis courts large enough to accommodate an additional 4 pickleball court expansion as the growth of this sport might dictate. These courts should be open in early 2017. PPPA submitted a Memorandum of Understanding to PR&CS to help provide maintenance support, and public pickleball education and training for this new venue.