Parks memo lays out path for Seattle’s tennis courts to make way for dodgeball, bike polo, more

dodgeball! — Photo originally uploaded by Fecki to flickr

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.

Courts Memo

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 until October 26th.

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21 thoughts on “Parks memo lays out path for Seattle’s tennis courts to make way for dodgeball, bike polo, more

  1. That’s fine. I’ll just play tennis on the adjacent basketball court or the soccer field. I’m sure people will understand…..

  2. as a tennis player who lives on capitol hill and lived right next to the miller playing field courts for 8 years, i know how hard (and frustrating!) it can be to find open courts in this area. there’s no such thing as a “low used” tennis court. the competition for open courts is fierce–and cal anderson is probably the busiest court! even judkins park and the courts off cherry and 25th can get busy.

    with the short PNW tennis season, if dodgeball players want to use city tennis courts, they can have them when it’s raining. or maybe start looking into some indoor and outdoor basketball court options–who says these sports need to be played on a tennis court?

  3. Give me a break. The dodgeball kids are asking for two nights a week for a few hours each. Were you really going to play tennis on Friday night?

    Let’s play devil’s advocate for a moment. Let’s say you show up with your three friends every Tuesday and Friday night for 4+ hour sessions of tennis. How many people get use of the space? Four. If you and your three friends join a game of dodgeball, how many people get use of the space? More like 40, not including the spectators.

    Dodgeball, and bike polo to a somewhat lesser degree, are good for the park because they increase total usage, bring greater (10x or more) profits to the local businesses, build the community, and maybe most importantly, bring something interesting to Capitol Hill.

    I say weigh the benefits and come to the realization that alternative sports on the Cal Anderson tennis courts are a huge plus, even if a few people have to move their tennis games to another night.

  4. Because I like Bike Polo so much more than Tennis, and I am tired of the Tennis players calling the police on the Polo players.
    And because I live under a bridge :P

  5. As an avid skater and a derby player that needs space other than trails to skate, I have often gone over to the eastside to skate on the sport courts in their parks. Why dosn’t Seattle have these? It seems like it would serve many purposes and many more people than the limited tennis courts. (I have been known to occasionally skate on tennis courts in the very early morning hours when I travel but Seattle is just not friendly like that…)

  6. Alright,I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be able to use the courts for other purposes. I actually like seeing the size and diversity of the crowd that Dodge ball attracts- I just want someone to look at the other perspective because, as you say, its 40 vs. two or 4 people, so tennis players are put in the role of ‘spoiling it for everyone’.
    Also,(as fuzzy below says) I’m a little confused by their term ‘low-use’. I guess that applies off season, but before the popularity of the alt use games came about, that court always had tennis players waiting for other tennis players to finish their games.

  7. What about the alternative sport of Tennis Hockey, which resembles street hockey, but requires Tennis Equipment and a Tennis Court for play? Someone should speak up for those guys too. They’ve been forced to play illegally in the after hours for years! It’s alternative but the sport revolves directly around Tennis and the tennis court.

    Look into it please.

  8. Dodgeball provides the community with a meeting place. A free, open, stereotype-bending environment for everyone to have a little fun. It seems to embody the community forming makeup that block watch and other neighborhood gatherings seem to always lack. There is a real magic surrounding those courts on Tuesday and Friday nights. People stop to watch; dare their friends to go inside and play; cheer for pain to be inflicted on their buddies. Dodgeball is a great usage of the courts all year round. Most tennis activity ceases come september where as dodgeballers have been known to play in the snow and the wettest of nights.

    Hopefully this is an example of the city recognizing good works by setting up the frame work to protect it. Also the tennis community’s willingness to share the courts for the duration of the dodgeball’s existence is a testament to character of that group as a whole.

  9. this isn’t about tennis players vs dodgeball players. this is about citizens who want to enjoy the park. tennis courts were built for playing tennis and the parks department has stated that. tennis players cannot play tennis anywhere else except for tennis courts. dodgeball players were given an opportunity to present their case and, also, an alternative, but they did not follow-through. it they really want to play dodgeball, then organize it and make it happen. don’t just show up at a tennis court and take over for 4 hours when other people are waiting to use the courts.

  10. I just wonder what the response of the nearby condo owners is going to be … I mean, look at that picture, would you want all that noise at night from so many people right outside your window when that wasn’t the plan before. City noise is one thing … 100 people on a tennis court yelling … but who in this city cares about their neighbor, eh?

  11. perhaps you should look at the WEST side of that condo. Any REAL, lasting, regular and significant noise problems are going to be from the college kids, the protests on the bricks, drunk pubcrawling folks and 4 lanes of traffic… not some rubber balls and sport exercise.

  12. First off, I don’t play tennis. “You aren’t asking to hit golf balls in the park…” Using your logic you can’t possibly be supporting dodgeball in tennis courts. Tennis players are asking to play tennis in the “tennis courts”. I agree with an earlier comment that “sport courts” need to be established. If you listen to the presentation at the last parks board meeting it seems that is the direction they are thinking anyway.

  13. I never claimed I was using logic.

    So let’s change the tennis courts to sport courts in name only. Problem solved. And then I can use my driver on it.

  14. If the tennis courts can only be used for tennis, then don’t put them in. The baseball fields are used for soccer all the time at Cal Anderson and to the best of my knowledge, you don’t hear the ball players either using your logic to keep the soccer people out, nor are they bitching.

    I love to play tennis, but not once have I ever stopped my walk through the park to watch a match. However, the first time I walked by and saw a bike polo game, I thought it was terrific! Bike polo, dodgeball, etc seem to be much more in keeping with the neighborhood

    Why does it make a difference if people have to wait 4 hours for a dodgeball game to end vs waiting 4 hours for tennis players on the court to leave? I haven’t seen anyone address that and until you do, it’s just a bunch of hating. The parks are for everyone, ALL the park space. So any activity that maximizes community enjoyment should win. If you can’t stand waiting for the courts, do what I do when the regular tennis players hog them, go to Volunteer Park.

  15. nearby condos have nothing to do with the issue regarding the court space and usage.

    i’m not sure if this is even worth arguing, or to complain about.
    the noise is inevitable in dense areas such as pine/broadway and near a public park… and potential buyers or renters [should] assume this. duh.

  16. what do you mean “CHS has obtained a memo……..”? That memo was available to anyone who attended the Parks Board meeting, nothing secret or noteworthy about you “obtaining” it. sheeesh.