Players from all sides of the fence spoke out at a hearing Thursday night as Seattle Parks considers a set of proposals to open up city tennis courts to “emerging sports” like dodgeball.
Players like Mark Fasse said they found a family in dodgeball and (although some players offered alternatives to the Cal Anderson plan) would not have started playing if it hadn’t been on Capitol Hill.
“All of us started by walking past that fence,” said Fasse about Cal Anderson’s Bobby Morris courts.
Editor’s note: When originally posted, this article misidentified speakers. It has since been updated.
Dodgeball player Sean Kauffman offered a cautionary anecdote suggesting that, if alternative sports are not given space on the tennis courts, they could displace people with greater needs. He said his group tried reserving a basketball court for awhile but every time they went to play, there were neighborhood kids using the court for basketball and the group had to tell them, “we’re sorry but we reserved this space.”
“If we’re not allowed to play in tennis courts, we’re just going to displace different people.” Hoffman said.
Officials remained quiet for the most part at Thursday night’s Parks and Recreation Department meeting, which served as a public hearing for the case of dodgeball and other alternative sports conducting events on tennis courts in Seattle parks.
The Parks board made it clear before the hearing that it had not yet made a decision on the issue of alternative sports and was waiting to hear from the rest of the community before doing so, though one parks official spoke in support of alternative sports before the hour and a half long public comment session.
“Dodgeball is growing and it’s not going away,” said Dennis Cook, Parks athletics manager.
A decision on the proposal is not expected until the end of October. The Parks board will accept written comments from the public until Oct. 26 — they can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org — and will make their recommendation to the Parks acting superintendent Christopher Williams Oct. 28. According to a Park memo reported by CHS, the decision on which courts will be included will be made on the following criteria.
- The geographic dispersal of the court locations throughout the city
- Proximity to other tennis courts
- Maintenance history and general condition of the court
- The court surface material
- Frequency of use by tennis players
- Demonstrated high demand for alternative uses
“It’s sad I have to think about getting in a car to play [tennis] when I live five blocks away from Cal Anderson,” said Capitol Hill resident Gavin Lunde who opposes giving alternative sports space on the two tennis courts in the park.
Tennis players who spoke at the meeting said they were concerned that the Parks Department’s “low use” designation for some tennis courts was inaccurate because many tennis players had stopped using the courts after they were damaged by alternative sport players.
Tennis players were mostly steadfast in their defense of their space but one player said he had been converted by the words of the alternative sport players toward the end of the meeting.
“I’m persuaded, these people need a place to play,” he said.