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So? What Happened at City Council?

Fifty-One People Make a Statement



Fifty-one pickleballers came to City Council on July 2 to show support for building pickleball facilities in El Paso. The original agenda item was submitted by Representative Joe Molinar , District 4 (northeast) - Thank You! Some specifics were missing, however, so Ben worked with Rep Molinar and I spent a day on the phone calling City Council Reps to explain the issues and garner support. In the long discussions during City Council, terms can be floated and twisted. When I spoke to Representative Hernandez (Cielo Vista area) I asked if she could please help get our key words into the final version: "dedicated courts" (no more multi-use), and "eight or more."


People who do not play do not know the difference between multi-use and permanent, and multi-use sounds so appealing to them because it is cheaper to get a 2-for-1 court and then "everybody is happy, right?"


No.


I used the analogy of high school permanent basketball hoops; people can show up whenever they have time, any Saturday or Sunday morning and know that players and hoops will be there. They can play.


Without permanent hoops, someone has to bring a portable, call 12 friends to coordinate a time everyone can make it and hope the hoop guy does not have a family situation that keeps him from coming. And if you are not on the call list, you are on your own.



It takes persistence to get what we want. Things don't "just happen."


There were several speakers, including "Angry Lady," a woman who complained about several agenda items, and we were not spared:


Angry Lady (third speaker): "Pickleball is not a family sport, it is mainly a sport for senior citizens." She was booed, but she persisted. "It is. Look at the demographics of our audience." To which we replied, "Our working players are at work." She went on to say we need something for young people, maybe a place to roller skate. (Who still roller skates?)


"Pickleball is a sport mainly for senior citizens"??

Well Angry Lady, this pic is for you, taken at Galatzan about two hours after the meeting. Isn't she cute?! There were also three high schoolers in the gym, and Dr. Laura's son Jimmy was with us at City Council - happy summer!


Angry Lady is one of those people who get their jollies by badgering and picking fights. It is so much easier to tear down than to build up. This is what City Council has to deal with. Let's keep this out of our community.


There is nothing easy about getting courts.


Thank you to our speakers (starts at 48:30 on video of meeting):


  • Jamie Fisher

  • Kelly Groves

  • Mark Smith

  • Roy Middlebrook

  • Terry Avalos

  • Ben Avalos

  • Stanley Stack

  • Stephanie Ruiz Alva



July 2, 2024, City Council Chamber, Agenda Item to Build Dedicated Pickleball Courts

Another light moment, from Mayor Leeser:


I remember the first time we had the conversation about pickleball years ago, I think we had three people come talk (Terry Avalos, Ben Avalos, and Jamie Fisher) and now we have the whole left side of the chamber so obviously it has picked up great momentum (applause).



So after all of that, what did they do?



During Tuesday's City Council Meeting, a motion was passed.Discussion and action to direct that the City Manager conduct a thorough assessment of the implementation of dedicated pickleball courts at locations across the City of El Paso, considering both interior and exterior pickleball courts and including Parks and Recreation facilities that have existing pickleball amenities; and that the assessment include at minimum a comprehensive selection process for potential sites, a projection of costs, an analysis of optimal facility scale and/or mix of facility sizes, and an estimate of the potential economic impact of tournaments and league play; and that a preliminary assessment be presented during the City’s upcoming Budget Workshops for the FY2025 budget, with a more formal assessment to be presented to the City Council within 120 days.

After "league play" they added the clause "to get input from Neighborhood Associations." (time stamp 1:38)


We reached out to the Central Neighborhood Association (Grandview Park) in May, but they have a tennis player on their board and were not interested in accommodating the pickleball players who live in District 2.


Our Association has taken action to form a Neighborhood Association around Mary Frances Keisling Park.



Council Discussion (begins at 1:13 mark on video)


Representative Molinar District 4 (northeast, north of Hondo Pass) offered $75,000 of his discretionary funds toward the project. For procedure reasons, this has to be voted on at the next meeting.


Representative Canales District 8 (westside, Crestmont to downtown) spoke favorably of pickleball in general.


Representative Salcido (far east) said she is seeing what can be done to increase The Beast plan from six courts to eight.


Representative Acevedo, District 2 (Grandview area) asked Parks and Recreation Director Pablo Caballero if the Parks Department could make portable nets available to the public on a "checkout basis" for outdoor multi-use courts. He said this would "solve a lot of the problems."


It would not. Among other impediments:


  • this would only work for courts next to a gym, not Sunrise, Paul Harvey, Mission Hills, etc

  • available only during gym hours, which means not after 2PM on Saturdays nor all day Sundays

  • only works if tennis players are not using the courts

  • no reliability of playeres being available


I have sent him a letter saying our community does NOT want more multi-use lines. We need permanent nets, reliable nets, just like basketball players have permanent hoops.


Mayor Pro Tem Kennedy District 1 (far westside, Upper Valley) said he needs to see what the numbers are (cost).


Representative Fierro District 6 (Marty Robbins area - east): acknowledged the need but said he would need to look at cost and budget


Representative Hernandez District 3 (Cielo Vista): "This is so essential for that human connection. You want more courts, permanent courts, and 8 courts or more. The budgetary resources are important as well ... Parks Dept has limited funds ... that is the balance we have to meet. I think we can get there."


Mayor Leeser: "Thank you Representative Molinar. This will take a lot of work, but nothing would have been started without your forward thinking."




What is next?


Within 120 days we will see what the City proposes. We will be back at City Council.


Play happy ...

on dedicated courts



Jamie Fisher

President, Pickleball El Paso Association










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