Out of doors pickleball advanced added at new Creekside Park in Bentonville

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BENTONVILLE — The city plans to install its first outdoor pickleball complex at a park under construction.

The City Council on Tuesday approved a contract modification with the Ecological Design Group and a $7,000 budget adjustment for the design of an outdoor, lighted eight-court pickleball complex in Creekside Park.

Tender plans did not provide for pickleball courts in the park. However, since construction began in November 2021, demand for access to sports has increased, which has driven demand for outdoor pickleball courts. According to a letter from David Wright, Parks and Recreation Director, which was part of the council documents, eight sites at Creekside Park were determined to be a good option because of the space available and accessibility.

“There have been so many citizen requests for Pickleball,” Wright said. “This is a citizen-driven desire.”

Wright estimates the cost of adding the pickleball courts at $625,000. The final cost should be determined by December 15, he said.

“If we’re at that scale and we get that number, we’ll have the funding to move forward,” he said.

He told the city council that a few years ago it cost the city $1.4 million to build eight tennis courts in Citizens Park.

Pickleball combines many elements from tennis, badminton and table tennis. It is played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net. Singles or doubles players use a stick and a plastic ball with holes, according to USA Pickleball.

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America for the second straight year with 4.8 million participants nationwide and a 39% growth over the past two years according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association 2022 Sports, Fitness, and Leisure Activities Topline Participation Report published in February.

The association publishes a summary of participation each year, which includes data from the largest single-source study of participation in sports, fitness and recreational activities in the country. According to USA Pickleball, it tracks participation in 120 sports, recreational, and fitness activities.

“It’s almost a cliché at this point that the pandemic has accelerated rather than created trends,” said Tom Cove, President/CEO of the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. “Pickleball has grown in popularity over the past five years and hasn’t missed a beat during the pandemic. Pickleball’s growth trajectory indicates that it will be a significant part of the American sports landscape for the foreseeable future.”

The city now uses basketball courts at the community center and tennis courts at Citizens Park for pickleball.

“It’s very similar to slow-pitch softball,” Wright said. “Anyone can play. It’s an inclusive sport.”

Rogers is installing a lighted eight-court pickleball complex at the new 70-acre Mt. Hebron Park, which opens early next year, said Jim White, city parks and recreation director. The park is north of Janie Darr Elementary School. The money for the park came from a 2018 bond issue.

Roger Johnson, 70, of Bentonville, has been playing pickleball for four years. He likes the idea of ​​adding more lighted outdoor spaces. He went to Osage Park at 4:30 p.m. on November 6 and found the eight seats there full. An hour later, the seats were still taken, but he and a few other players were able to get a seat until 6:30 p.m

“It’s a great idea,” he said. “The demand is there. Pickleball is a growing sport in the area. It just attracts a nice group of people. There’s a social element to Pickleball.”

Osage Park is not a city park. It is a space provided by the Peel Compton Foundation.

Councilor Chris Sooter told the council last month that the city’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Council discussed the potential of Pickleball courts at its Oct. 3 meeting. Sooter is appointed to the Board by the Council.

Board member Craig Gilbert said the sport is not a fad.

“Parks and rec do such a good job of listening to our citizens and that’s why the issue was brought up in our meeting,” he said. “Since it is the Board’s job to speak on behalf of the public, we discussed the possibility of investing in Pickleball courts.

“We want to continue to make Bentonville the best place to live, work and play and this is another example” of the board’s role in that, said Gilbert.

Creekside Park will be on 25 acres and will be connected to a 1.6-mile trail that will lead from Southwest 28th Street to Southwest Greenhouse Road, Wright said. The Walton Family Foundation provided a $1.4 million grant for the trail, he said.

The city has reached a $7.35 million agreement with Flintco to build the park. Amenities include a lighted dog park, target playground, splash pool and cricket pitch, according to the city.

About 85% of the project will be paid for in fees that developers pay before receiving an occupancy certificate, Wright said.

The park will be adjacent to Osage Creek Elementary and Creekside Middle School. The park is about 70% complete and is expected to open in spring 2023, Wright said.

“I see Creekside Park in Southwest Bentonville making an impact in a very short period of time,” he said.