Next week, supporters of alternative athletics like dodgeball and bike polo will have an opportunity to make their case before the Seattle Parks Board in a public hearing on opening the city’s tennis courts to other “emerging sports” use. CHS has obtained a memo that lays out the framework that Seattle Parks will propose be put in place to open some courts to alternative play. The two-page memo, below, was discussed by the board this week in preparation for next week’s hearing.
The memorandum lays out the proposed process by which a tennis court would be deemed available for “non tennis court activities” and documents issues that Seattle Parks believes could be raised by the public regarding the plan. The memo does not attempt to describe what types of non-tennis uses would be approved.
Following the Seattle Weekly’s report in August 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 restrictions, CHS learned that the department was beginning a process to open up some courts to alternative sports.
“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,” Parks spokesperson Joelle Hammerstad told CHS.
In 2008, a pilot project was conducted allowing dodgeball for two nights a week on the tennis courts in Cal Anderson but at that time, the board ultimately decided the courts continue to be used only for tennis. Of course, at Cal Anderson games of dodgeball and bike polo continued even as signs went up informing players the courts were to be used for tennis only.
More recently, the dodgeballers were offered a space in Judkins Park that could have been converted at a low cost but Parks has said the players were not satisfied with the offer and no effort to raise funds was ever mounted by players. The Judkins courts are two miles away from Cal Anderson. According to the memo, complaints from community members have been submitted to the department and to the Citywide Athletics Office regarding the alternative use of Cal Anderson’s Bobby Morris courts and West Seattle’s Hiawatha tennis courts.
The memo lays out a six-step process groups would have to go through to open a court to non-tennis use that would include a 30-day public comment period for each location considered. Parks superintendent would have the final say. According to the memo, the decision would be based on six 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
At least on that final bullet point, the Cal Anderson decision would be a slam dunk.
Parks reported that dogeball, bike polo, street hockey and roller blading groups have contacted the citywide athletics coordinator to discuss possible space for their activities and have tried to run activities in low use tennis courts over the past year.
The memo also makes it clear that Parks remains especially concerned about conflict with neighborhood residents and tennis players and is considering day and time of week restrictions on the alternative use:
There may be complaints from neighbors or tennis players. We would mitigate this by signing the court with the permitted non-tennis uses in an effort to provide communication and let them know about change of use and evaluation. Identifying the days and times of the week the low used tennis courts would be available for the non tennis court activity groups. The parks department will have to set up a fee to permit the venue along with developing rules and regulations for drop in use. […] The availability of tennis courts is a concern of tennis users.
The parks board met September 9th as part of their regularly scheduled session to discuss the proposals and prepare for the September 23 public hearing when sports players and community members can “mitigate conflict” before a final recommendation for action is made to the parks superintendent October 28, according to parks spokesperson Sandy Brooks.
The public hearing on the proposals is Thursday, September 23rd at 7 PM at Parks Headquarters, 100 Dexter Avenue North, 7:00 PM. Sign-in for up to two minutes of public comment starts at 6 PM. Your comments can also be submitted in writing or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org until October 26th.