Following the Seattle Weekly’s recent report that park rangers broke up a game of dodgeball at Cal Anderson Park in late July leaving dodgers without a place to play because of Parks Department restrictions, we checked in with the authorities to find out what the heck was going on and what could be done to find a middle ground that could make tennis players, dodgeballers and bike polo players happy.
“We know dodgeball is a great game and great exercise and creates a sense of community, and that we need to find a place or places for it,” said Parks spokesperson Joelle Hammerstad.
The dodgeballers were offered a space in Judkins Park that could have been converted at a low cost but Hammerstad said the players were not satisfied with the offer and no effort to raise funds was ever mounted by players. But it’s hard to blame them. The Judkins tennis courts are two miles away from Cal Anderson, far from the pulse of nighttime activity in Pike/Pine. Cal Anderson’s basketball courts and tennis/dodgeball/polo playfields are made for showtime and ideal for a crowd of onlookers and ice cream lickers to take in the show of a team sport where many can play. Your tennis ego would have to be pretty large to carry the crowd on a Friday night.
Parks seems to be coming around. We’re told by the department that Christopher Williams, acting superintendent, told the park board August 12th that he wants to consider a change of use for the tennis courts to support dodgeball and other “emerging sports.” It wouldn’t be the first time the department embraced dodgeball and bike polo.
In 2008, a pilot project was conducted allowing dodgeball for two nights a week on the tennis courts in Cal Anderson but the Park Board recommended the courts continue to be used only for tennis. Former superintendent Tim Gallagher agreed.
However, dodgers continued to meet on the tennis courts even when signs went up informing players of the courts’ proper use.
At the time of the original ban, dodgeballers were invited to play in the gyms of several community centers, said Hammerstad, but the group continued to meet at Cal Anderson. The department had no capitol funding for a real dodgeball court so players were advised to apply for an award from the Neighborhood Matching Fund, a program created in 1988 to strengthen neighborhoods by funding community-oriented projects. As far as the Parks Department knows, the Cal Anderson players have not applied to the fund.
While there is no official space for alternative sports like dodgeball and bike polo, the guerilla conversion of the tennis courts has done more than just frustrate some racket-wielding power hitters. Hammerstad said the dodgeballers have left the courts in a poor state for tennis play.
“Dodgeball damages the tennis nets (we have replaced them at least once in the last year) and the chain link fences,” she said. “Rather than walk around the court to the entrance, some [players] climb over the fence. It’s now sagging to the point where there is a work order in to replace it.”
OK. Fence climbing is bad. But given the stage those courts represent, the tennis nets are a small price to pay. And, really, they’re only in the way.