Hilton Head Island Pickleball Club




Here’s a link to a Q&A explanation of the rules for various circumstances involving the non-volley zone, otherwise known as the kitchen: https://www.pickleballmax.com/2015/09/pickleball-faqs-volleys-groundies-and-the-non-volley-zone/


Our club’s board met Dec. 10, 2018, with Frank Soule, executive director of the Island Recreation Center, and some of his staff. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the relationship between the Rec Center and the HHIPBC, and how we can best work together.

We will now have a more formal relationship. Starting in January the club will pay $200/month for Rec Center support and services. This amount was determined by the number of staff-hours the center has been and expects to be providing.

The money that people pay to play – $3 for a day and $40 for 2019 – will continue to go to our club.

Other decisions included:

• The Island Rec Center Association is in complete support of our goal of a pickleball-only complex and looks forward to working hand-in-hand with us as we move forward.

• Discussions have begun with People for Parks (Alan Perry’s group) to create a relationship that will allow us to take advantage of their 501(c)(3) status and accept tax-deductible donations to the club, mainly for our pickleball-only project.

• Related to this, starting in January, club funds will be stored in a PFP account rather than at the Rec Center. The Rec Center will continue to collect the money from players, keep $2,000 on hand for expenses that the club board approves, and transfer the rest quarterly to PFP.

• The board approved buying portable barriers to keep balls from rolling away when we play inside and serve as separators when other groups are using the gyms. We would like to find barriers that would serve a similar function outdoors, particularly so we could make better use of the courts at Chaplin Park.

• Frank announced that Fred Lowery, athletics program director on the Rec Center staff, will now be our main point of contact. Bob Rozek will continue to be on our board.

Frank politely made another point -- our club has been loosely organized, with no elections to any positions. Board members and our president have been informally asked to serve. As we interact with the Rec Center Association, the Hilton Head community, the Town Council, People for Parks, the Greater Island Council and others, particularly to support our goal of a public pickleball center, it seems clear that we need to be structured more professionally.

As a first step, in light of his extensive work on the project and for the club, Bob Soltys is now board chairman. Alex Cruden continues as club president. They are both pleased with this arrangement, and welcome your thoughts about additional titles and duties for club leaders. Should we have a vice president and a treasurer? Periodic elections? If so, how should they be structured? Should we have written bylaws?

Bob and Alex have been very encouraged by your support to date and are happy to continue their efforts for the club.

Our Dec. 12, 2018, proposal to the Town of Hilton Head Island

Summary: The Hilton Head Island Pickleball Club joins with the stated official position of the Hilton Head Island Parks and Recreation Commission and the support of the Island Recreation Center in requesting that the Town commit to creation of a public pickleball complex.

We request that the Town Council give this project its highest priority. Based on local experience and the national trend, the demand for pickleball facilities is proven. Media coverage underscores its popularity. 

John Kerr, Director of Tennis & Pickleball at Palmetto Dunes, sums it up: “There’s a couple of reasons pickleball is so popular. The first is the learning curve. Anybody who has a little bit of hand and eye coordination can really be having fun after 15 or 20 minutes on a PB court. Another thing (which makes this a perfect fit for Hilton Head) is it’s a multigenerational game. On an athletic level there are few things grandparents can do with their grandkids. It’s a beautiful thing to see. The entire family can exercise and have fun. Pickleball is fun.” 

We ask that this project proceed without delay. Given the demand, the high number of potential beneficiaries, the relatively low capital cost per participant, and the fact pickleball is a healthy and sociable recreation, the inherent value to Hilton Head is established. We are past the assessment stage. Let’s build these courts!

Levels of commitment: A 20-court complex, which the Parks and Recreation Commission voted for on March 15, 2018, would cost more than $500,000. What we seek in the coming year is a fraction of that, and in an amount to be determined by the Council as appropriate.

 A proper beginning for the project would be a site study on Town-owned land.  For example, a single acre (in any configuration) of one of the three large fields of Chaplin Park could accommodate the recommended complex.  The ground is level and open.  The Town could determine and cover the cost of site prep to enable courts to be built there.  Chaplin Park already has restrooms and parking.

The important thing is to take the first step.  An overall, long-term parks and recreation needs assessment is a logical and commendable exercise. However, the need for public pickleball courts is already established and the solution is available, as this report goes on to show. Creating a new PB facility can be done without inhibiting the development of other recreation facilities that may later be determined to be worthwhile. 

Once a site is chosen, a 20-court complex can begin as a 10-court center. The nature of a pickleball center layout allows for easy expansion, as the private project at Palmetto Dunes has demonstrated.  A 10-court center, available all day, seven days/week, would be a dramatic improvement over current facilities.

 Contents of this proposal: The following sections summarize the justification for moving quickly on this project, an example of the success of a similar project, what pickleball is and links to recent local articles about it, the project’s benefits to the Town that do not now exist, a look at specific costs and possible funding sources, and an appendix regarding how to build a pickleball center.

Justification: Even though the Recreation Center’s existing nine public courts are multipurpose, and available only on weekday mornings, they experience approximately 10,000 player-days per year.  That is, a total of 10,000 times annually someone uses one of these courts to play pickleball.  And the number is growing.  A set of professionally built pickleball-only courts available throughout the day and on weekends would draw considerably more participation.

Pickleball is the fastest-growing recreational sport in the United States, played by schoolchildren, older teens, and adults on up into their 80s, and is particularly popular among the demographic that would consider Hilton Head Island as a place to move to or for regular long-term vacationing.

Our project would be a significant fulfillment of the mission of the Hilton Head Island Recreation Association. The association’s stated mission is to improve “the quality of life for people of all ages. The association produces, provides and coordinates public recreation programs, ‘wellness’ activities and community events. The association commits itself to monitoring the recreation needs of the community and instituting change where appropriate.”  Meshing exactly with this mission, a pickleball center would provide recreation for all ages, offer all-around wellness exercise, and enable events to benefit HHI communities.

An example for comparison: Griffin, a town of about 23,000 in Spalding County north of Atlanta, built an 18-court complex (with four of the courts covered) and added bathrooms with changing rooms, a concession stand, bleachers with canopies and other features.  This facility opened in mid-2017.

The total cost was $1.5 million.  Now that this facility is hosting tournaments, the gain for the local economy is estimated at more than $1 million annually.  The demand is such that they’re now turning away new tournament applications in order to preserve court time for residents.

Pickleball centers are an attractive fact of life in numerous other Southeastern cities.  In Florida, for example, Naples’ several pickleball centers include a single complex of 54 courts, and Sarasota offers 35 courts.  In the Greenville area of South Carolina are 33 different places to play pickleball.  And so on. 

The sport: Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, though the rules are simple.  It can be played enjoyably at a basic level by almost anyone, and develops into a fast-paced, strategic game for experienced players.  The only specialized equipment that a player needs is a paddle.  Pickleball provides well-rounded low-impact exercise – and is sociable and fun.  It helps develop/sustain reflex and coordination skills, quickness and agility.  It improves muscular strength and endurance, and increases cardiovascular activity. And it promotes mental sharpness.

New benefits for Hilton Head: With the kind of pickleball complex we propose, and with our club continuing to work hand-in-hand with the Island Recreation Center, there could be:

  1. Court use every day, all day, including weekends, serving far more working people than the current weekday mornings hours

  2. Tournaments for various age groups and skill levels for residents and visitors; these are signature economic drivers in other communities.

  3. Island charities sponsoring fund-raising events.

  4. Times and courts set aside for beginners – and for high-skill players.

  5. Instruction sessions, from learning to play through advanced techniques.

  6. Coordination with school programs.

  7. Organized leagues.

 Costs: The cost to build a pickleball facility varies depending on the surface for building the courts and what else the center includes. 

Once a site has been prepared, standard construction is to put down a layer of small stones topped by a layer of asphalt and then a surface with the proper markings.  Permanent net-poles go in, low fences separate the ends of each court and a high fence goes all the way around. The cost per court is around $25,000 (after the site prep), experienced companies say. Per John Kerr, this was the case for the privately operated courts at Palmetto Dunes.

 Twenty courts would fit on one acre. This parcel can be shaped in any number of rectangular ways – as in, for example, shown in the Griffin center photo – to use the available space most efficiently. For several reasons, placing the pickleball center on land already owned by the Town makes sense.  After all, this complex would be a highly valuable asset.

The cost of day-to-day operation would be low because of enthusiastic volunteer participation by members of the Hilton Head Island Pickleball Club, who currently organize the pickleball use of the Island Rec courts.

Sources of funding: A Town financial commitment, spread over a few years, is essential to attracting additional money. HHI pickleball club leaders are exploring the potential for a private-sector partner with interests that mesh with pickleball on Hilton Head.  The target for such a sponsorship is $100,000 or more.

 It was suggested to us by Alan Perry, the island’s leading fund-raiser for public recreation, that private backing is more than feasible. To facilitate fund-raising, we have begun discussions with Mr. Perry to create a relationship with People for Parks that will allow us to take advantage of their 501(c)(3) status and accept donations on a tax-free basis. 

The club could pledge $10,000 in immediate cash if the project goes ahead and would fund-raise further.  Surveys of the 200-plus club membership indicate strong willingness to contribute. Player fees to use the new courts would provide a continuing additional revenue stream. 

Tournaments are highly popular in other locations and bring in large amounts of entry fees and visitor spending.  Current Rec Center facilities are unsuitable to host tournaments.  There is one annual tournament sponsored by the Rec Center and held at the private Palmetto Dunes courts. Building a pickleball complex like the one we are proposing represents a significant revenue and economic opportunity for Hilton Head.

 Appendix: Recommendations regarding construction of pickleball courts

Read and use “Pickleball Courts: A Construction & Maintenance Manual.”  It is available in print and via download for $29.95 and can be ordered at www.sportsbuilders.org.  

Hire a qualified designer/experienced builder.

Involve local players in the planning and execution stages.  HHI Pickleball Club members would be happy to volunteer useful guidance and reactions.

Orient the courts north-south, to minimize glare.

 Follow recommended dimensions. The court itself is 20 by 44 feet, but the recommended playing area for each court is 34 by 64 feet (as in tennis, basketball and other sports, players inevitably move beyond the in-bounds lines).  This report uses the 34x64 standard in recommending the need for an acre to accommodate 20 courts.

Include fencing: The perimeter is typically 10 feet high. Between courts, fences with a padded top and 3½ to 4 feet in height are recommended.  (These are generally included with a $25,000 court.) 


Alex Cruden, President HHIPBC, crudenalex@gmail.com, 843-363-2252; 25 Gunnery Lane, HHI 29928

Bob Soltys, Board Chairman HHIPBC, bobsoltys@hargary.com, 843-681-7710; 51 Outpost Lane, HHI 29928


December’s issue of CH2 magazine offers an excellent look at local pickleball:


 Also, the Hilton Head Sun recognizes the trend locally: http://www.hiltonheadsun.com/pickleball-mania-holds-court-in-the-lowcountry-cms-1889


Hilton Head Pickleball – Fact Sheet 2018

• Pickleball continues to be the fastest-growing recreational sport in the country, and is particularly popular among retirees.

• Municipalities that compete with Hilton Head for tourism and new residents are making sure they have attractive, pickleball-only court complexes.

• The game is quickly learnable, provides well-rounded exercise – and is fun.

The HHI Parks and Recreation Commission voted March 15, 2018, in favor of a complex of 20 public pickleball courts on the island, sending the proposal to the Town Council.

Currently, public pickleball is available on weekday mornings on a total of nine multipurpose outdoor courts (tennis/basketball/pickleball) at two locations on the island. Neither are anywhere near comparable to facilities found in many Southeastern municipalities, larger and smaller than Hilton Head.

Even so, more than 10,000 times a year a player steps onto these HHI courts for a morning of pickleball.

Each of those mornings, volunteers set up the frames and nets, organize the games, welcome new players and then take down and store the equipment for the next time. These volunteers are among the 200-plus members of the Hilton Head Island Pickleball Club, which operates hand-in-hand with the Recreation Center to supply and maintain game equipment.

If the Parks & Rec proposal materializes, our club could help Hilton Head change from a pickleball backwater to a first-rate destination, with economy-boosting tournaments, organized instruction, weekend and afternoon play for those who cannot now participate, and fund-raisers for local charities.

A survey of club members found a substantial willingness to donate money toward a public pickleball complex on the island – if the town will take the lead to ensure completion.

A typical eight-court complex with fencing (but no lighting) would cost $110,000-$150,000, depending on whether suitable land is already available. After land prep, 20 courts could be done for $500,000 and would fit, with proper spacing and fencing, on one acre of land.

Presented to the council on June 5, 2018:

The Benefits of Public Pickleball

A summary for members of the Town Council of Hilton Head Island

In a formal vote, the town’s Parks and Recreation Commission has endorsed building a complex of 20 public pickleball courts on the island. Reasons supporting the commission’s decision include:

• During the last five years, pickleball has been the fastest-growing sport in the country, and is particularly popular among retirees.

• The island’s current public courts are multipurpose and used for basketball or tennis in addition to pickleball. The lines painted for each sport is distracting & creates confusion. These courts also have fixed schedules for play times. Pickleball use is scheduled for weekday mornings. The earliest start time is 8am during the summer months and is seasonally adjusted. Pickleball play ends at Noon. This means folks that have daytime, weekday jobs, and those attending school cannot play.

• Municipalities that compete with Hilton Head as highly desirable destinations for tourism as well as residential havens have found pickleball to be a financial boost.

• The game is quickly learnable, provides well-rounded exercise – and is fun.

The commission’s 4-1 vote on March 15, 2018, sent the proposal to the Town Council.

Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, though the rules are simple. The sport can be played at a basic level by almost anyone, and develops into a fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.

It can be played as singles, usually as doubles, indoors or outdoors. Up to three pickleball courts can fit on the space used by one tennis court.

A player uses a solid paddle to hit a plastic ball (with spaced holes) over a horizontal net onto a lined court. No other specialized equipment is needed.

The pictures on the next two pages [not included here] show examples of nice public pickleball complexes in areas with standards and expectations like Hilton Head’s. These complexes draw seasonal and short-term visitors as well as serving the residents. They enable community and larger tournaments. Many Southern communities have or are building such complexes – and reaping the economic rewards.

The page after that shows two of the six current, improvised, public courts of the Hilton Head Recreation Center. The court surface is pocked and the boundaries are marked with old inflatable pond-ice-hockey barriers. Who would play a tournament here?

Ideal for Hilton Head would be the complex envisioned by the Parks and Recreation Commission and supported by the Hilton Head Island Pickleball Club, whose 180-person membership includes residents and seasonal long-term visitors. Club volunteers operate the current pickleball program associated with the Recreation Center.

The complex would have a central building with restrooms, water fountain, an office plus a small equipment storage room, and a shaded benches-and-tables area for players between games. It would have parking nearby.

For more positive economic impact, a concessions area could be added, plus a centerpiece playing court with a moderate amount of spectator seating, for tournament finals, exhibitions and so on.

The number of courts could be fewer than 20, depending on the land available.

Costs: Many factors come into play, starting with the land itself: Is it already municipally owned? Is water and electricity available? Is the ground already suitable for a paved surface, or is site prep needed?

A typical eight-court complex with fencing (but no lighting) would cost $110,000-$150,000. With economy of scale, 20 courts might be done for $300,000. Adding the building and amenities at Hilton Head standards could bring the total to $500,000.

Possible funding sources: It’s likely that current players – residents and visitors as represented by the Hilton Head Island Pickleball Club – would donate a significant amount if the Town is serious about going ahead.

ATAX grant funding looks like a very appropriate source. Pickleball is a proven tourism draw – and lack of suitable public courts is a tangible detriment.

People for Parks of Hilton Head, a non-profit that supports community spirit and health and vitality through public recreation, would be another natural ally. People for Parks has raised more than $1.1 million (toward a $1.32 million goal) to equip the newly expanding Recreation Center.

Town (and/or county) land and infrastructure could be made available. And, of course, direct Town funding could complete the project.

Next question: What can the Hilton Head Island Pickleball Club do to help the Town Council approve this project?

A survey of a full range of 74 players – residents, second-home owners, regular long-term visitors and others – at the current public courts demonstrated a willingness to contribute. Survey highlights:

• Half of the fulltime residents said they were “very likely” or “likely” to make an individual financial contribution to new pickleball courts.

• Among the players who are on the island eight-ten months a year, 88% said they were “very likely” to donate financially.

• Among the rest, more than half responded on the “likely” side.

A sampling of comments from the survey:

“The current facilities for a top destination vacation area are truly dreadful.”

“The addition of public pickleball courts will be a huge addition to tourists and homeowners alike.”

“Provide free training sessions.”

We have club members who would be delighted to do this.

“Pickleball has exploded nationwide and Hilton Head should join the growth.”

“The current times exclude working adults that would like to play.”

That’s because the current courts are used for other sports as well at other times. A dedicated facility would truly serve the public.

“Let's get this done as soon as possible.”

We welcome the guidance and support of our Town Council.

Submitted for the club members and all HHI pickleball players by Alex Cruden, club president