Recent Developments and Postings
Pickleball playing times are 8-11 a.m., Monday-Friday, through August. Five outdoor courts and two indoors are available at the Island Recreation Center at 20 Wilborn near the high school, and five outdoor courts are on Adrianna Lane, off eastbound highway 278 between Squire Pope and Spanish Wells roads. The Adrianna courts are generally used by higher-skill players. Also, four courts are lined on the basketball area at the mid-island Chaplin Park, but there we must give way to basketball players. At all three locations, equipment lockboxes outdoors can be opened by club members who know the combination.
New paddles and progress
We have three new Gamma paddles in our Rec Center equipment box, and another one being tried out by board member Joel Magee at Adrianna. We received the paddles free as demo models, thanks to an initiative by club member Cindy DeHart. Each is a different model. Give them a try (and please return them afterward to their individual plastic sheaths in the equipment box).
You can now buy identical paddles and other Gamma equipment for 15% off by ordering online and using the code hiltonheadpb. This is a benefit of being a member of our club.
Also: The net and frame we won from Head (another club benefit) is now in use at the Rec Center courts. So an old set has been retired to the equipment storage room.
Project progress: Although construction of the public pickleball center that we seek is still a long way off, we received more encouragement at Thursday’s meeting of the HHI Parks & Recreation Commission – especially when I told those present that we would conduct a substantial fund-raising.
With us putting up part of the money, our project is likely to be among the top priorities as the recreation master plan process plays out. During the meeting, the Island Rec Center executive director, Frank Soule, spoke up spontaneously on our behalf, and afterward two of the Town Council members attending told me that we have their support. Club Chairman Bob Soltys and I will continue politely pushing our case in the various forums available.
-- Alex Cruden, club president
A Healthy Improvement: The HHI Pickleball Center
[This is the project status report we provide to public officials]
Hilton Head can host healthy community recreation, improve its park system, attract home buyers and long-term repeat visitors, diversify its sports program and catch up with the offerings of comparable towns. All this can be done in a single, low-cost and volunteer-supported project: build the first public pickleball center on the island.
Phase one of this center could be built for less than $400,000, and we the Hilton Head Island Pickleball Club are willing to raise half the money.
The HHI Parks and Recreation Commission has recommended that the Town create a 20-court center. This can be done on just 1.5 acres out of the Town parks’ 475 acres. A phase-one layout of ten courts would demonstrate the many benefits of such a center. The center would become a valuable, long-lasting Town asset.
Once the Town has made the commitment, club members who already administer the Island Recreation Center pickleball program would staff the center. Nominal playing fees would make the center self-sustaining, as figures later in this report demonstrate.
Already, with organization provided by club volunteers, more than 10,000 times a year someone plays pickleball on one of the temporary Island Rec courts. Pickleball has been the fastest-growing recreational sport in the United States for well over a decade and participation just keeps expanding – while at the same time tennis and golf, which have been mainstay HHI attractions, are less popular.
The lasting demand is proven for a Hilton Head public pickleball center, especially as low-cost recreation for island residents. We suggest you cannot find a higher return on investment for the Town to attract new visitors as well as people choosing retirement and second homes – and for healthy outdoor recreation, social interaction and related benefits within such a small commitment of space.
This report shows:
• The necessary steps to success
• Where and at what cost a pickleball center can be built
• What the Town can gain by completing the project
• How the center would be self-sustaining once it opens
• What the financing would be
• Illustrations of pickleball centers
• Why people love pickleball
• A financial summary
The important thing now is Town commitment. A site designation would trigger fund-raising and sponsorship, which the HHI Pickleball Club is already working on. Likely sites are already owned by the Town. Creating a new pickleball facility can be done without inhibiting the development of other recreation facilities that may later be determined to be worthwhile.
A. The necessary steps
We propose the center be built as a park improvement, rather than considered as a new project. The distinction is important. An improvement to an established Town park can be accomplished in one or two years. A totally new project would become part of what is likely to be a decade-long comprehensive recreation project. To put it another way, on the latter path the new courts would not open during the playing life of many current club members.
We urge the HHI Parks and Recreation Commission to bolster its March 15, 2018, approval of a 20-court complex with a specific capital budget recommendation to get the project going as a park improvement.
Then, under state law, it is up to the Town Planning Commission to recommend priority capital improvement projects to the Town Council to consider for the annual budget. Scott Liggett, Town director of public projects and facilities, works with the Planning Commission each year to develop these recommendations, along with a multi-year program showing candidate projects beyond the next fiscal year.
Club leaders have made five presentations to the Town Council on various aspects of pickleball and the project, and have spoken at a half-dozen Parks and Recreation Commission meetings. Members of both bodies have been warmly encouraging. Club leaders will, of course, continue working with Town officials to proceed through the steps as briskly as possible.
B. Where and at what cost
Town-owned land at Chaplin Park offers excellent site possibilities, particularly near the tennis courts, where a pickleball center would be a natural court-game companion.
The area already has electricity, restrooms and water service, along with 108 little-used parking spaces – and a large overflow parking site nearby. Within a tree-lined green border, courts could fit between the William Hilton Parkway (Hwy. 278) and a parallel road within the park.
A 1.5-acre pickleball center – accommodating 20 courts – can be laid out in any of a variety of rectangular shapes (see illustration examples in Section F below). Once a site is chosen, leveled and otherwise prepared (probable cost: $100,000), industry-standard courts (such as those at Palmetto Dunes) can be constructed at $25,000 each. This includes fencing around and between courts, lining for the surface, supports for all-weather nets and stubbing out for the later possibility of overhead lights and roofing.
The first 10 courts of a 20-court complex can be built for $250,000. Adding a covered space with benches and tables for players waiting to go on should cost less than $50,000. This would accomplish phase one, and be a tremendous improvement. For the first time on Hilton Head Island, public pickleball could be played all day, every day, and working people and their families could conveniently join in.
C. What the Town can gain
Hilton Head is remarkably behind on pickleball in three ways: adult recreation, a competitive draw for potential new residents, and an attraction for repeat tourism.
Adding a first-rate pickleball center to a Hilton Head Island park would not only address the above needs but would significantly update and round out HHI recreation amenities. It would also provide a community place to hold benefits for local nonprofits. The club is willing to host such events, which could range from children’s days to sports & health clinics to on-court fund-raising competitions to open tournaments in which a substantial share of the entry fees goes to a worthy cause.
Pickleball is low-maintenance recreation. Outdoor courts in this region are built to last for more than 20 years, with surface maintenance every four to seven years ($3,000 to $4,000 per court), and otherwise need only an occasional pass with a leaf-blower to be ready for play.
Volunteers from the Hilton Head Island Pickleball Club would open, staff and close the new courts daily (zero cost). We do that now with the 10 courts at two locations associated with the Island Recreation Center. Club staffing includes administration of orderly and considerate play with equal opportunities for all participants. Club membership as of the end of May was more than 240.
With the new courts, cost to players would be low compared to private courts, but still provide sustaining revenue for equipment and maintenance. Currently, to play at the club-administered temporary courts, the charge is $40 per year or $3 per day.
Fees at the ten new courts, with the additional hours and higher quality, would rise and participation would grow. A conservative estimate of annual revenue: $25,000.
$70 per year x 300 yearly (club) players = $21,000
$5 for daily play x 800 participants = $4,000
This is based on our experience and growth rate while now limited to weekday mornings.
So even if full surface maintenance were required after only five years and cost the top-end estimate of $4,000 per court, that total would be $40,000. And even in the unlikely event that total player fee revenue never exceeds $25,000 yearly, the five-year total would be $125,000. That leaves at least $80,000 ($16,000 per year) to cover incidental maintenance/equipment, with any surplus going to the Town.
The club’s expectation is to make zero profit for itself.
As described above, providing and preparing a site for the new courts would be of value for the Town, given that the new center would become a Town asset. Total site prep cost depends on the nature of the site, and could be determined by Town experts. A reasonably high estimate would be $100,000. Recent-growth trees would need to be cleared and the ground made fully level.
If the Town makes this commitment, the club can launch a full-scale fundraising effort. Such a pattern has proven effective in towns across the country.
The clearer it becomes that the center will indeed be built, the easier it will be to raise money. Sponsorships become possible. Branding rights could be sold. Hotel and resort companies, country clubs and other organizations could pay to reserve certain court times. We have plenty of ideas from our members experienced in fund-raising and from other pickleball clubs in similar-size towns.
HHI club funds are deposited with People for Parks, a 501(c)3 organization best known locally for raising more than $1 million to equip the newly expanded Island Recreation Center.
Tournaments are another revenue source and would particularly popular during Hilton Head’s off-seasons. Tournaments draw both nearby residents and people who will drive as much as a day or more to participate. With competitions among a range of ages and skill levels, a typical tournament at a ten-court facility produces about $12,000 in net revenue, which could go to charities or the Town. In addition, the Chamber of Commerce could certainly provide an apt multiplier index for overall economic benefit to the area from tournaments.
As phase one proves its worth, it will be valuable to consider including a tournament/exhibition court with seating when designing phase two.
Club leaders would be happy to discuss how additional fund-raising could speed the project’s completion.
[These are not shown on the website, due to tech limitations, but they’re nice and in color]
The following three illustrations show a variety of pickleball court configurations. The first one, of a layout in northern Georgia, shows 18 courts, with 4 under a roof, fitting an L-shape location.
The next photo shows an eight-court complex with typical fencing – 10 feet high around the exterior and about 4 feet high between each pair of courts. The eight pickleball courts fit on about the same amount of space as needed for two tennis courts.
Something beyond our expectations, but illustrative of the popularity of pickleball centers, is this depiction of a planned and approved 27-court complex, including three centerpiece tournament courts, in Milton, Georgia.
G. Why people love pickleball
All you need is a simple paddle and a pair of sneakers. You – at any age – can enjoy the game right away and you can spend years happily getting better at it. It’s a four-generations activity. Want to see what pickleball looks like? Watch this 90-second video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqLRRNOpe8U
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.”
With its relatively small courts, pickleball does not have excessive physical demands yet invites a full range of movement and muscle involvement. It helps develop reflex and coordination skills, agility, endurance, mental sharpness and cardiovascular activity. Also because of the court size, all players are always within conversational distance, making the sport inevitably sociable.
The game is 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.
H. Financial summary
Site preparation costs will depend on Town decisions; probably less than $100,000. After that, phase one (10 courts plus shelter) can be constructed for $300,000. The net annual operating cost, offset by fees to play, is essentially zero, as shown in Section D above.
For phase two, cost of courts would depend on whether any would be tournament-style, with seating. With phase one in operation, the club expects fund-raising and sponsorships would be substantial, and the club and Town officials would negotiate how to share the phase-two construction expenses. Projected operating costs would still net out at zero.
Alex Cruden, President, Hilton Head Island Pickleball Club
25 Gunnery Lane, HHI 29928
Bob Soltys, Board Chairman, Hilton Head Island Pickleball Club
51 Outpost Lane, HHI 29928
June 21, 2019
NEWS FROM TWO MEETINGS
1. Our club treasury balance is $26,767.61 as of March 31, as reported at a club board meeting April 11, 2019.
The treasury pays for expenses such as the materials for ball-stop fences (labor is donated by club members), new balls, other equipment, and services provided by the Rec Center. The main reason for building up our balance is to provide seed money for our ultimate project of a pickleball center.
Treasury income flows from sale of yearly and daily wristbands. So far through March, this year’s income is $10,254 ($8,560 from 214 club members; $1,440 from 441 daily players and indoor fees, and $254 collected from 61 daily players at Adrianna).
2. Later in the day, Frank Soule, executive director of the Rec, gave us a real boost with the Hilton Head Island Parks & Recreation Commission. At the conclusion of his presentation of the Rec annual budget request, he spoke strongly about the need for a dedicated pickleball center and recommended Chaplin Park as an appropriate location.
Earlier in that meeting, I informed the commission members that we would be seeking their help and guidance in establishing such a center as a Chaplin Park improvement, rather than a new project. The distinction is important; a park improvement can be accomplished much quicker than creation of a new facility. The latter is subject to the town’s new master plan and needs assessment program. I noted that a pickleball center near the current tennis courts would be an appropriate combination and would make use of existing infrastructure, restrooms and parking.
Commissioner Michael Ray made a special point of saying how reasonable our plan is.
Bob Soltys, David Aldrich and I are continuing this effort and see ways toward more progress.
FEBRUARY BOARD MEETING
The HHI Pickleball Club board met Friday afternoon (Feb. 22). The actions and topics:
We added club members David Aldrich and Joel Magee to the board. (A full listing of board members can be found at the directors link on this website.)
We approved a Charter and Bylaws for the club. A copy is now on the website at charter, bylaws, archives.
We drafted a statement of our relationship with the Island Recreation Center. Once it is accepted by the Rec Center director we will post it.
A priority list for Adrianna courts improvements will be put together by several of us and the Rec Center will address them.
We discussed next steps toward getting the pickleball complex built. Our immediate priority is site selection, and several of us are working on this. We will coordinate efforts with appropriate Town of Hilton Head officials. We are also continuing work on other aspects of our project goal.
All players need to have wristbands while playing, the board affirmed. When some players have them and others don’t, it raises questions about whether everyone is paying.
Afternoon pickleball has begun on Rec Center courts. In this experimental program, we keep at least one court going after the scheduled noon end of play. We are obliged to make way if basketball players need the courts, but so far none have appeared while we have played until 1:30 p.m.
-- Alex Cruden
JANUARY BOARD MEETING
Your board met and took some action on Thursday (Jan. 10) and later that day some of us attended a public workshop session of the town’s Parks & Recreation Commission. Here’s a summary on both.
The club board approved:
Purchase of plastic fencing of the kind we have been testing at the Rec Center. Including that one, we’re buying six 25-foot sections of green plastic mesh, two feet high, plus support stakes. Total cost will be less than $150. The lightweight fencing will be placed in the ground near the street-side ends of Rec courts, replacing the bulky black barriers.
As has been the case with the barriers, the fencing will need to be removed each day after play. But it’s easy to roll up and carry. We’ll go to the fencing as soon as a storage box is in place. Where we can’t stick fencing, we’ll still use some old black barriers – on the pavement between courts and the tables area where we gather.
We’re open to considering the same sort of fencing at Adrianna if needed. It appears impractical for the Chaplin courts. We continue exploring ways to set up portable and safe ball barriers on paved areas.
Purchase of a new tarp cover for the shelter at the Adrianna courts. Regular players there should choose, buy and install the tarp and give me the purchase receipt for reimbursement.
Adding board members. An email soon to club members will explain how this will happen. We are moving toward a more formal leadership structure for the club, which is a necessity as we seek government and donation support toward our goal of a dedicated pickleball center.
Members with particular skills and backgrounds are already participating in that effort.
One has volunteered to draft a formal charter for our club, which would make its mission clear, and another is working on the beginning of a business plan, which is essential for us to build official and financial support. We intend to begin serious discussions of fund-raising soon.
At the HHI Parks and Recreation Commission: This is the body that advises the town government about recreation priorities. At Thursday’s meeting it took no official action on our proposed pickleball center – but we received unofficial encouragement.
Commission members confirmed their approval of a master-plan process for all of the town’s recreation and parks. The mayor and Town Council appear committed to this approach as well, which involves a multi-step comprehensive needs assessment. That sounds discouraging to any pickleball player over age 60.
But during the meeting, Commission Chairman Ray Kisiah said pickleball needs to be in the master plan, and his predecessor and current board member Michael Ray spoke up for sports tourism. Kisiah said HH islanders have high expectations for high quality improvements and “we [commission members] can’t afford to blow it.”
What was even more encouraging was that Kisiah and Ray sought out Bob Soltys and me after the meeting. They said we were doing exactly the right thing by showing up at each of their sessions and speaking on the record (as I did Thursday) about how the need for a pickleball complex is starkly clear and has strong support in the community. Kisiah said (unofficially) that the town could decide to build a pickleball center within 2-3 years.
That’s what we will continue to press for in our politely persistent efforts. At some point soon we will ask you for large show-up participation.
-- Alex Cruden, club president