Pickleball no longer in a pickle with Rec and Parks over Veterans courts

Marblehead Pickleball members gather at the Seaside Park courts. Photo by Spenser Hasak

Marblehead Pickleball made some headway in their efforts to get the town’s 10 pickleball courts back up and running after a Recreation and Parks meeting Tuesday night. 

In January, the courts at Seaside Park were shut down and locked up along with all of the other courts in town. With more than 300 active players in the community, pickleballers were displeased with the decisions as they had been playing year round in Marblehead since the first courts were established in 2018, with the exception of the beginning of the pandemic in 2020. 

On Tuesday, the proverbial ball bounced their way with a vote to open the courts at the Veterans Middle School.

“We made progress last night, although it was baby steps,” said Co-Chair of Marblehead Pickleball Lisa Spinale. “We’re not locked out completely from the ability to play.”

Nine members from Marblehead Pickleball attended the meeting with a  petition calling for the courts’ reopening . In her opening speech, Spinale hoped that the players and the commission could come to an agreement and make amends after hearing of tense conversations that occurred between the two parties. 

“We in Marblehead are grateful and fortunate to have ten dedicated courts. Tonight, we are only referring to the location at the Vets. We respect your decision to lock up Seaside,” Spinale said. “I heard in the past there were some tough and contentious conversations between pickleball players and this commission, but tonight we’re hoping to start fresh.”

The compromise between the commission and Marblehead Pickleball is that only the Veterans courts will be unlocked, and players will have to bring their own nets. If there is snow or ice on the courts, they will be locked back up until the courts are cleared.

Though the ability to play through the winter is now a reality, Spinale said that players could be forced to spend their own money with nets not being provided.

“The cost of a good net is $100 to $200 and it could be cost prohibitive for some people to do that,” she said. 

Spinale and Co-Chair John McKane, who run marbleheadpickleball.org, decided to purchase a durable net for those who want to play and leave it in a lockbox near the Veterans Court for those that do not have their own net. 

With this winter the first that the nets have been taken down for reasons other than COVID, McKane, along with many other players, were displeased with the decision. McKane expressed his frustration in a newsletter sent out in January when the courts at Seaside Park were taken down.

“Yesterday when I heard from Matt (Martin) that the Seaside pickleball nets were taken down for the winter I felt sad. Why? Because on nice sunny, mild weekdays in the winter where were people going to play before 2:30?” he said. “The Marblehead Pickleball Community, which we all know is large and growing, is not getting the usage out of our 10 courts it should.” 

All other courts, including Seaside, will remain closed for the winter. Though Spinale hopes to have that changed in the future, she respects the decision as the courts at Seaside were newly refurbished.

“We respect the decision to close down Seaside because the contractor suggested the courts not be played on after he resurfaced them and that the nest be taken down because we don’t know how they’ll fare in the winter,” said Spinale. 

 

  • Ryan Vermette is the Item's Marblehead reporter. He graduated from Springfield College in 2021 with a Bachelor's degree in Communications/Sports Journalism. While in school, he wrote multiple sports articles for the school newspaper, the Springfield Student, and joined Essex Media Group in August, 2022. Ryan is a college basketball fanatic and an avid Boston sports fan and in his free time, enjoys video games and Marvel movies.