Victory for Die Hard Pickleballerz: SLC has a plan for west-side pickleball

Four of the Glendale Park tennis courts will be repurposed for pickleball play

Pickleball player Ifa Motuliki, who lives in Salt Lake City’s Glendale neighborhood, wasn’t happy that all of the city’s public courts for his favorite game were on the east side of town.

Motuliki said he and his league, the Die Hard Pickleballerz, regularly found themselves walking or driving by the eight often-empty tennis courts at Glendale Park, at 1375 W. 1700 South. They wondered, he said, what would happen if the space better reflected the new needs of the neighborhood.

They can stop wondering, because the city has a new plan for those courts.

Salt Lake City’s Public Lands Department has decided plans to convert four of the eight tennis courts into at least six pickleball courts in the next two years.

“It’s gonna be a great thing, I think,” Motuliki said. “To me, this is the best move that the city could have made.”

The decision is also, in a way, the fruit of the Die Hard Pickleballerz’ efforts to change the vision plan for the area that will be Glendale Regional Park. Motuliki said he believes the courts could dramatically improve visitorship in the park, as 1700 South is already well-used by his neighbors.

“You watch. It’s gonna be busy all day,” he said. “And hopefully, they will put a light on that pickleball court. It’s going to be all day, all night.”

They will have to wait until 2025 to set foot on the new courts, though.

Remaking the courts

Four of the current tennis courts will remain in place, while the other four will be made over to create at least six pickleball courts, said Tom Millar, planning manager for the Public Lands Department.

New fences will be installed, and the courts will be resurfaced, with shorter lines appropriate for pickleball play, Millar said. A regulation tennis court, by International Tennis Federation rules, is 78 feet long and 36 feet wide (for doubles play); a pickleball court is 44 feet long and 20 feet wide, according to USA Pickleball.

Motuliki — who said he would like to see pickleball courts modeled after ones he has played in Murray and St. George — said he would like to see eight pickleball courts in the space where there now are four tennis courts at Glendale Park. “Two pickleball courts in one tennis court — that would be fantastic,” he said.

That may not be so simple, Millar said. In some of the courts, the fencing is in odd places, which presents a design challenge, he said. And the city wants to include entrances, a division between the tennis and pickleball areas, and such features as benches, he said.

“There may be some additional amenities that we add to the site that might limit us from doing the strict one tennis court-into-two pickleball courts conversion that we’ve done in the past,” Millar said.

Why the city changed its mind

The initial plan was to leave the eight tennis courts at Glendale Park as they were, and build pickleball courts next to them. The community rejected that idea, members of the Die Hard Pickleballerz said, because there isn’t enough space in the park, and because of concerns about enough safe street crossings on 1700 South.

Turning the tennis courts into pickleball courts also would be faster and cheaper than building new ones, a report by the city’s Public Lands department said. Because of the noise made about the earlier proposal, the city opened a second survey so the community could help shape the park’s fate.

Millar said the city heard both from pickleballers and tennis players. “The overwhelming response was, ‘Yes, let’s just repurpose some of the tennis courts into pickleball courts,’” he said. “So that’s what we’re going to go with.”

The city is also looking at the current distribution of its pickleball courts, and how that will change in the next few years, Millar said.

Right now, the city maintains 14 pickleball courts, all at east-side parks: Fairmont Park in Sugar House, and 11th Avenue Park and the 5th Avenue and C Street courts in the Avenues.

The city, Millar said, has identified funding to add two pickleball courts in Poplar Grove Park at 750 S. West Emery St., two more at Fairpark Fire Station #7 at 273 N. 1000 West (near the northeast corner of the Utah State Fairpark), and around eight courts at Rosewood Park at 1400 N. 1200 West.

Alixel Cabrera is a Report for America corps member and writes about the status of communities on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley for The Salt Lake Tribune. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by clicking here.