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Parks memo lays out plan for dodgeball but no more bike polo on Cal Anderson courts

In a move that will sanctify an iconic part of Capitol Hill’s nighttime play and attempt to legitimize an athletic activity known for its rebellious image, the Seattle Parks Department is preparing to establish new sports court classifications that will make it no longer against the rules to play dodgeball at Cal Anderson. We have bad news for the Hill’s bike polo players, however. Those same classifications will also prohibit ‘wheeled and stick sports’ on color-coated courts with asphalt like those along Nagle Place.

The details of the new plan come from a recommendation memo prepared for superintendent Christopher Williams and the board that will make the final decision on the emerging sports proposals. The board will discuss the proposals at their Thursday, October 28 meeting.

The recommendations call for the creation of three tiers of classifications for sports courts in the city based on how many courts are at a location, the surface at the location and whether area high schools use the court for match play. The first tier courts such as Lower Woodland and Lincoln Park would not allow alternative uses while second tier courts including Cal Anderson and Green Lake will be open to alternative uses not including wheels or sticks. The hockey and the polo crowd will have to stick to tier three courts with concrete surfaces like Judkins or Dearborn Park.

While the recommendations represent a victory for dodgeball organizers, the Capitol Hill bike polo crowd will either have to continue their rebel play or move on. These organized matches also take place at TT Minor Elementary School just up Madison from Pike/Pine and the Green Lake park and ride. Players will also be gathering this weekend at Judkins Park for the Emerald City Open.

Tuesday the 26th is the deadline for public comment on the proposals the parks department prepared in response to renewed tensions over the use of Seattle’s sports courts for activities other than tennis. A public hearing on the proposals drew a large crowd in September.

Though the new memo seems to indicate Parks athletics manager Dennis Cook has already finalized his thoughts on the situation, you can still add your $0.02 to the conversation by e-mailing According to the latest memo, the department received 67 letters against alternative uses of the courts. Twice as many were sent in support. Parks also says it received a petition from alternative use supporters with 631 signatures. The tennis-only crowd only mustered 52.

Criteria for Alternate Use Tennis Courts FINAL 10-25-10

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23 thoughts on “Parks memo lays out plan for dodgeball but no more bike polo on Cal Anderson courts

  1. Couldn’t we cut the budget of the people who view it as necessary to spend a lot of time writing rules about whether it is ok to play dodgeball and bike polo on courts that otherwise would be empty.

  2. It’s not about whether they’re empty or not – it’s about destroying the surfaces. I play tennis regularly, on these courts and others around the hill. I’m all for dodgeball when the courts aren’t in use for tennis (or for scheduling regular times reserved for each), but bike polo tears up surfaced courts. If we’re going to invest in building decent courts, it makes sense to invest a little to protect/maintain them.

    I’m all for the compromises here – protect the courts themselves as much as necessary, to keep them suitable for their original purpose (and for the large community that uses them for that purpose), but allow other use to whatever degree possible. Hopefully both communities can embrace the compromise.

  3. Join a tennis club if you want suitable surfaces (whatever that means). You aren’t a professional tennis player.

    I don’t bitch that any of the Seattle golf courses aren’t up to PGA tour standards. I’m paying 30 bucks to play each week so I have realistic expectations of the conditions.

  4. Good point, “tennis,” and your comment suggests another alternative: Why not take the bike polo to the Seattle golf courses instead?

    Join a country club if you want suitable greens and fairways. You aren’t a professional golf player.

  5. Etaoin,

    You struggle with reading comprehension.

    I don’t need to join a country club because I have the appropriate expectations about the conditions on a public course. Read it again.

    And my comment does not suggest your alternative. Please read and focus.

  6. I don’t think i was bitching – if anything, i’m a fan of the compromise. Just pointing out that the main issue, from at least some tennis players’ perspective, is court damage and not time sharing.

    I guess i don’t understand what you’re getting at, tennis. I don’t expect the city courts to be the best courts in town (and they’re not, regardless of any of this). I like the idea that some courts are built for (and used for) multiple purposes, and that some with tennis-specific surfaces are reserved for tennis. Just like the golf course you use isn’t the best in town, but it’s good enough (and reserved for golf, where other activities would damage it or make it less useful). What’s wrong with that idea generally, or the city’s proposal specifically?

  7. I sound like curly.

    They should charge for court use. The cost per player will be lower for uses that benefit more people.

  8. I only wonder if these “third tier” courts will have any type of lighting? With winter around the corner Cal Anderson is always completely vacant, and lit til 11 pm. It’s great that they’re designating these courts for polo use, but it’s pointless if we can’t play after 5 because all the third tier courts don’t have lights.

  9. They should charge based on the intended use of the participants, and the maintenance costs associated with the intended use.

    Tennis Players: Minimal wear-and-tear. Minimal costs.
    Dodgeball players: Moderate more wear-and-tear. Moderate costs
    Bike Polo players: Extreme wear-and-tear. High costs

  10. Yeah, if the bikes ruin the surface, it should be banned.

    “Join a tennis club if you want suitable surfaces (whatever that means). You aren’t a professional tennis player.

    I don’t bitch that any of the Seattle golf courses aren’t up to PGA tour standards.”

    It’s a public park, no need to destroy it for your sole pleasure.

  11. Cal doesn’t have lighting in the winter. From the Parks website: “To conserve energy from the last Sunday in October until the first Sunday in April, we light only our five major tennis courts: Meadowbrook, Miller Park, Rainier, Solstice, and Woodland (lower). “

  12. Don’t know, just came across that while looking for a list of lighted tennis courts. Maybe Cal is different because they are on timers?

  13. I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that Bike Polo doesn’t destroy tennis courts. The tennis players may claim that this isn’t the case, but it’s because they’re trying to get bike polo off their precious courts. The piss-poor condition of the seams on the Cal Anderson tennis courts is not a result of the bikes or the mallets – it’s a result of lack of maintenance on the part of the parks department. Both bike tires and Polo mallets are far more malleable materials than the surface of the courts – the players go through mallets and tires on a weekly basis because of the abrasive quality of the tennis courts. The only marring that Bike Polo leaves on the tennis courts is the thick black skid marks – unsightly, but certainly not damaging.
    I will also add that this very abrasive quality that the tennis courts have is extremely helpful to Polo play in all weather conditions – it’s stickier so the players can stop and turn faster.

    Thanks for listening.

  14. I like bike polo there. That said, aren’t skid marks thin layers of rubber residue being left on the surface? The skid marks may not affect the ability to play tennis, but it certainly IS marring the surface. I suppose the same argument could be made that skateboarders aren’t permanently damaging painted railings when they ride on them. The point is that the marring of a surface accelerates the timeframe in which it will need to be maintenanced, and I read somewhere that it costs in the neighborhood of $100K to do so (not for an extravagant finish, just standard private contractor cost).

  15. Maus,

    Putting aside that I play neither dodgeball or bike polo, your comment about my sole pleasure is idiotic. Since you are concerned about the pleasure derived from the courts, you support both dodgeball and bike polo being played because more people get more pleasure from these uses.

    Tennis also ruins the surface (at a different rate) which is why they get resurfaced. Another comment you didn’t put much thought into.

  16. @tennis

    “Join a tennis club if you want suitable surfaces (whatever that means). You aren’t a professional tennis player.”

    i play neither tennis, dodge ball or golf. that said, i don’t get your argument? only professional athletes have an expectation of having a proper surface to play a sport on? by that logic can’t the dodge ballers play their sport in the sun bowl there at cal anderson?

    better still, why do we have tennis courts at all? or basketball courts or soccer fields? why not just find an empty patch of land, call it a sports field and let whomever use it however they want. it could hold golfers, football players, badminton players, tennis players and everyone in between.

    i mean, seems like we spend an awful lot of money making sure people who play soccer and/or softball have a dedicated area marked out with lines, backstops and goals. putting up basketball goals can’t be cheap. can’t all these people just be happy with an open field or an empty parking lot? after all, they’re not professionals.

  17. Zeebleoop,

    At Cal Anderson, Baseball, Softball, Soccer, Ultimate and many other uses share the same space (sometimes at the same time). Some of those uses aren’t even sport related.

    Using your logic, dodgeball and bike polo make sense on the tennis courts.

  18. @ Tea and All
    “Tennis Players: Minimal wear-and-tear. Minimal costs.
    Dodgeball players: Moderate more wear-and-tear. Moderate costs
    Bike Polo players: Extreme wear-and-tear. High costs”

    How did you arrive at your levels of wear and tear. Ive been watching this whole saga go down for the past 4 years and can tell you honestly from my experience bike polo and dodgeball doesnt inflict anymore damage to a tennis court than tennis. Natural environmental factors have the greatest effects.

    Yes, bike Polo leaves scuffs marks. Leaves and dust on the court have a greater impact on the play of a tennis ball. Since when does bike polo inflict extreme wear and tear and leave high costs?

    Dodgeball inflicting “moderate damage to the courts?” Participants leaning on the net was an issue. It has been easily solved. The play of tennis inflicts more damage to the surface than dodgeball. Tennis rackets can scratch the court. This is stupid but true. What in a game of dodgeball harms the surface of a tennis court more so than in a game of tennis? As in tennis, people playing dodgeball wear court shoes or normal everyday “athletic” shoes. The tennis courts go without use the majority of the time anyways. Take a look. More often than not you’ll see no one playing tennis. It would be a waste of resources to not allow some tennis courts in a park to be permitted as multipurpose. Hence, why the parks have logically decided to permit some courts to be multipurpose.

    Rain and standing water are probably the greatest factors in terms of wear and tear, besides the flexing of the court which cant easily be controlled. For those of you so concerned about the well being of tennis courts you should be looking into getting roofs put over the courts to prevent rain and standing water from escalating the spread of surface cracks. After all, through the whole alternative use of tennis courts issue, surface cracks has been the most common complaint and is the most significant damage found in park tennis courts.