Cal Anderson Olympics: Parks chief considering support of dodgeball and “emerging sports”


bike polo -2
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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.

35 thoughts on “Cal Anderson Olympics: Parks chief considering support of dodgeball and “emerging sports”

  1. one of the most fun places to be on Capitol Hill – walking past the tennis courts at night: dodge ball, bmx polo, basketball, tennis, whatever. It’s alive and fun. “As my son says, Cal Anderson Park sucks everyone out of the woodwork”.

    please don’t over-regulate the joy. and yes, we need roomfor tennis too.

  2. I like a lot of everything happening – reasons that you use a park – should be as varied and unique as humans themselves.

    Of course keep it flexible and keep the user stats up there. Parks are VERY expensive to the tax payer – the people pay the bill, the people need to be able to really use the space.

    Maybe a creative process where it is clear there are zones and all the possible uses of these areas???

    Love the art, love the kids, love the cruising for gay guys, love the het couples kissing and fondling, love the games at the courts, love the free movies nights and the music which is common now.

    Let’s keep in community based, creative, innovative and fun.

    For ALL.

  3. I LOVE the fact that people have found common ground for FUN in Cal Anderson however…as a Tennis player these courts are trashed. If you look at the photo in this article you don’t have to look close to see the tire marks and scratched surface. You can’t play tennis any longer on these courts and in my opinion they need to either make a new place for tennis or resurface them. It is inevitable that people will continue to use this space and I don’t blame them! If money is an issue I guarentee someone could organize a concert style fundraiser or two to get the money I would hope that the park would allow it! We need Tennis, Dodgeball, and Bmx Polo!!!

  4. If anyone is interested in learning more about or pursuing a neighborhood matching grant… this is a main topic for the September 16th Cap Hill Community Council Meeting (7pm in Cal Anderson Shelter House – within earshot of the court’s glorious revelry).

    Someone from the City will attend the meeting to review the application process and give us tips. We will also have an open community discussion and brainstorm on project ideas. The council plans to submit at least one proposal but I’d love to see several proposals from our neighborhood. The grants can be up to $20,000. Applications are due in January so we have some time to put solid proposals together.

  5. 1. Yes, the tennis courts might not be perfect, but they’re more than usable. I’ve played there often and the tennis balls bounce and there’s a net. That’s all I expect from a public court.

    2. Please whoever is in charge of the parks department, go watch a dodgeball game at the park. It’s pretty incredible how dozens of people from all sorts of backgrounds come together to play the game. Seems to me that’s what the role of a public park should be — creating community. Don’t get in the way!

  6. First, I agree that the dodgeball games bring a lot of people to the park and they all seem to be having loads of fun pummeling each other in evening cage matches.

    Here, I guess I reveal my residual unresolved gym class horror, but I also find it hard to be sympathetic to the dodgeball mob who, from this article, seems deeply uninterested in engaging with the city to find matching funds, making use of more appropriate space, or even occupying the tennis courts without destroying them. Climbing the fences and wrecking the nets just looks like a childish demonstration of disrespect for the park and the other groups who use it.

  7. I am supportive of dodgeball having a place to play, but there are a few concerns. First of all, I live directly above the tennis courts. Admittedly the dodgeballers were playing before my building was built, however it would be a nice consideration for them to lower the volume after 10. They tried this last week and it was FABULOUS. Instead of hearing someone yell 1-2-3 at the top of their lungs every 5 minutes until 11:30 at night, they actually were somewhat conscious of their volume and it made all the difference.

    Dodgeball is fun to watch, but I wonder how safe it is to have 60+ people (I counted the other night) inside a tennis court. Either way, I am supportive but I question the safety of the space they have chosen.

  8. The dodgeball energy, spectacle and engagement is pretty wonderful. But why is it that apparently there is no effort by the group to engage with the city at all, much less half way, on working something out? A creative compromise surely exists, but only with the willingness and cooperation of the parties.

    Also, can’t dodgeballers display energy and spontaneity without being destructive?

    It also may interest some that all the black powder-coated chain link and wind screens at the Cal Anderson Park tennis courts were paid for by the Capitol Hill community in 1997, through a Dept. of Neighborhoods Matching Fund Grant awarded to Groundswell Off Broadway, as one part of early efforts to improve the park (long before reservoir replacement). We removed the old decrepit rusting fencing, and paid around $20,000 for new fencing and screens. Those fences are literally the community’s fences, and trashing them is fouling ones’ own nest.

  9. …since the courts are so trashed, you can’t really play tennis on them anyway. But what will they do with them in 10 years, when no one plays dodgeball or bike polo anymore?

  10. “as a Tennis player these courts are trashed. If you look at the photo in this article you don’t have to look close to see the tire marks and scratched surface”

    It’s scratched from constant use, not bicycle tires. Tire marks are a silly concern.

  11. “Climbing the fences and wrecking the nets just looks like a childish demonstration of disrespect for the park and the other groups who use it.”

    That is a purely social issue unrelated to the sport. It can be addressed within reasonable confines.

  12. You’re right. The courts are completely trashed because of the dodgeball and bike polo. The polo players barely make any effort to reinstall the net. They usually just wrap it on the post and call it good.

  13. It is a social problem, but that problem will be hard to fix because a lot of the folks are drunk or high and making bad decisions.

  14. If you live in the condos directly adjacent to Cal Anderson (front yard being Broadway, side yard being Pine, and your back yard is the alleyway/Cal Anderson)– I find it offensive to complain about noise on a weekend night, particularly before midnight. This is a highly energetic and vibrant part of not just Capitol Hill, but of all of Seattle.

    Through your complaining and 911 noise complaint calls- the people in that building are costing the people of Seattle more money and unnecessarily wasting police resources. You should not have moved into such an obviously high-energy area of the city, if you do not want a lot of noise, and often. Please fully enjoy it or consider moving to a quieter part of the Hill… there’s tons of options to choose from.

  15. then petition for a 2nd door, or join the 2 together with another door going out to the bball courts.. your entrance concern is valid or invalid, irregardless of dodgeball

  16. the vast majority of dodgeball players do not climb the fences or wreck the nets- your concerns may be valid, but there seem to be a lot of people (and their #s are growing) who want to play friendly neighborhood dodgeball in the park,..without having to deal with bureaucratic licensing / grant-writing to pay city fees, or worry about noise complaints because it’s much more enjoyable with music playing

  17. To clarify, I have never called to complain about people playing dodgeball. Playing dodgeball is a legal activity. Is the usage of the courts agains Park Department policy? That is for others to decide. Like I said, I support the games, and have not seen anyone try and destroy the courts. I’ve never heard anyone call the police regarding the game that occurs within normal park hours (I once DID calll the police about a drunk guy yelling and swearing for over a half hour in the park at 2am). People playing dodgeball have every right to enjoy the game, and play to their heart’s content. The park and courts are designed for games to be played. Will I speak up on behalf of the dodgeball players? No. Will I complain about the usage of the courts for dodgeball? No. And will I contact the city regarding putting another gate in? No. Those issues are for the Parks Department to resolve.

    The residents in the apartment building between Broadway and Nagle are of a wide variety of age groups and backgrounds. I know of senior citizens, families with small children, single people, couples, middle age and young. There is also quite diverse ethnic representation. My point is that you can’t point fingers without understanding that this block HAS become a family envoirment, albeit an urban one. I feel that the users of the park need to be respectful of this and at the very least avoid the use of coarse language (quite prevelant among the dodgeball players), and be respectful of the family intent of a public park. The key here is for the residents to respect that the park is going to be used for games of various tyeps, and for the people playing the games to be respectful of the neighborhood.

    For the sake of clarification, has anyone called the police and asked the people playing the game, and spectators that are to be cheering, quiet (before 11:30pm when the park closes)? Has law enforcement ever asked the players to leave based upon a noise complaint?

  18. “What a priss.”

    Well, you know us tennis players. We want our courts flawless and dipped in gold, so our diamond-encrusted sneakers don’t have to touch the common earth.

  19. My obervation has little to do with aesthetics and more to do with safety. There is no need for a second entrance in a space designed to accomodate a game for 2-4 people. When there are 60+ people involved it may be more of a safety issue. So to respond directly: the concern is invalid for singles or couples tennis, and valid when it comes to larger games such as dodgeball. In my previous post I mentioned that the block has evolved from vacant lots to multi-family housing. In the same vein I would suggest that dodgeball has as well. I have to imagine it has grown from a few people to the exceptional following it has today. With growth comes new considerations to handle its popularity.

    Again, it is just an observation. I’m not sure what the Parks Department’s conerns are, although I’d assume that occupancy and ingress/egress are among them. If the game is to stay at Cal Anderson, it might be a consideration when the dodgeballers apply for grants to consider options for player safety.

  20. Seattlexb, I would guess that reducing the sound level of a crowd with scores of people enjoying a game of dodgeball in a public park takes a good deal of effort from some people within that crowd who are concerned enough with being courteous to you and your neighbors to divert some of their focus away from the game and repeatedly remind the less-courteous players to keep it down. Seeking out those people and expressing your appreciation would be a great affirmation of their efforts. It might be the difference between more gradual improvement and those people giving up in exasperation.

  21. I agree with your observation. While I wish they’d lower the volume a touch after 10pm (and really I’m talking Tuesday, not Friday), it is within their rights to enjoy the game in a fashion that keeps language from being coarse. I’m still curious about the police being called on a crowd of people inside the tennis courts engaging in dodgeball during park hours.

  22. It should be a simple choice by the parks.
    Just ask what best serves the needs and the majority of the community

    If Dodge ball and Bike Polo are given a court each, you supply activity space to nearly 30-40 people and I would venture to say another 20 spectators.

    How many people do 2 tennis courts serve– 4 players, and zero Spectators. maybe 1-2 if they are lucky.

  23. this is a very active area in seattle.. if not dodgeball, other large groups of people have found, and will continue to find their way onto the tennis courts. dodgeball players shouldn’t be expected to take the grunt work (or criticized for not actively taking the responsibility) of grant-writing in order to add a safety door to the courts. that’s stupid.

  24. If I’m raising a child, and decide to live at B’way + Pine- then I should expect to have to deal with some coarse language at loud volumes… during the day and at night. That should factor into my decision of moving to such a major Seattle intersection…

    Maybe I’ll have to hear some drunk college kids falling over themselves, going home with a late night trick from Neighbors (which has been around + been going on for how much longer than that high rise condo?). Please don’t try to force the neighborhood to change from the loud(er), raucous(er), fun(er) attributes that have helped shaped it into the community that many love.

  25. Walkman: No one is trying to “change” the neighborhood, but things are constantly evolving. I’ve said several times that dodgeball has a right to be in the park, and *I* would never do anything to affect that one way _or_ the other(in fact I kind of enjoy watching it sometimes). It appears to me that all anyone is asking is that park regulations are observed and city law is followed. Last time I checked playing dodgeball in a tennis court isn’t against the law (nor should it be), but being in the park after 11:30 (I said 2am is the only time I complained — after waiting 30 minutes) is. I did finally catch your comment about music being played. I just checked city law and park department code. Amplified music is against park code, however amplified music is legal in parks by city law as long as it can’t be heard more than 75 feet away. I think this is the same regulation that dance clubs have to follow. There are laws against many other things in parks that I’m sure you’d support. You can’t cherry-pick. Cheering and playing sports is totally OK!

  26. Like one of the other commenters, I too live in one of the apartments above the tennis courts.

    I enjoy having the game there and I have to assume that everyone else does as well. However, I also see where some of the concerns are coming from and I think it’s due to the fact that the game has gotten so large.

    When the game had 15-20 people, there wasn’t really a problem. Now that’s it’s 50+ people, you run into crowd control problems. There more people you have in that confined space, the louder they get, the more they become uncontrollable and the more they become disrespectful to the other users of the park, the park’s equipment and the park’s neighbors.

    I’ve gotten the impression that the dodgeballers have a “we have a right to be here” attitude without taking the responsibility to make sure their game is respectful to the neighborhood.

    You might try to say everyone has to put up with the dodgeballers because it’s an urban neighborhood, but it’s not true. Having lived in the building since March, I haven’t seen any other group or game have the same issues. Even though dodgeball has been playing in the tennis court since there was only a parking lot next door, that’s not the case anymore. Like any other urban neighborhood, it’s always changing and now there’s now a building with 100+ apartments that you have to consider because it’s not going anywhere.

    If the dodgeballers want to stay (and I DO hope they get to), they need to take responsibility to make sure their game grows appropriately with respect to the space and it’s neighbors. Otherwise, what will happen when the crowd gets to be 100 people, 500 people, 1000 people!

  27. Someone here needs to consider the numbers. 2-4 people can play tennis for an hour. On a Friday night at Cal Anderson park between 8:30 and 11:30, that means 12 or less different people can play tennis. Compare that to having over a hundred playing dodgeball in that same time period. There are many tennis courts all around the city, but the ones at Cal Anderson are the only ones with such a high volume of foot traffic to allow a large community game of dodgeball. It really is a stage on Tuesday and Friday nights for a great game to play in and watch. Tennis players do not need a high volume of foot traffic to play their game. What is so hard about taking five or ten extra minutes to go to another tennis court and play by themselves? We tried to play one night with both courts open, and we went on one court. Two tennis players walked by the empty court, and demanded that we leave the one we were on. Incredible. I know that those two tennis players were a couple of boneheads and did not represent all tennis players. However, there is a large enough population of stubborn tennis players who do not realize just how outnumbered they are in this matter. Please, out of respect for the hundreds and hundreds who enjoy dodgeball, give us our darn 6 hours of the week on those courts and stop whining about it.

  28. You have already admitted that we were playing while those condos were a parking a lot. And that you live in a vibrant, loud neighborhood full of nightlife. I will respectfully answer your ‘question’ about the ‘safety’ of our location. There have been no fights or serious injuries in our game for all its years. Also, it’s often about 100 people, plus fifty or so watching.

  29. Dodgeballer: I agree with Cory’s comments below. What I mean by “safety” is if there was an emergency and everyone needed to leave the court, there is ONE doorway size entrance. That’s my only point. Yes, you were there when it was a parking lot. It isn’t anymore, and your game is no longer 15-20 people. Both have evolved. I enjoy the game. Be safe, follow city law and parks regulations (DBall SHOULD be allowed), and have fun!

    Please see my other comments if you think I’m trying to be hostile to the game.

  30. in your wordy response, you failed to acknowledge the point in my comment: dodgeball players shouldn’t be expected to take the grunt work (or criticized for not actively taking the responsibility) of grant-writing in order to add a safety door to the courts

    if there’s safety concerns about there being only 1 entrance,,, then if not dodgeballers, other large groups will eventually find their way on the courts. the 1-door entrance should not even be part of the debate/discussion.