The Overlook with Matt Peiken

Tennis vs. Pickleball | Volleying for Space on Asheville's Limited Courts

September 13, 2023 Matt Peiken Episode 87
The Overlook with Matt Peiken
Tennis vs. Pickleball | Volleying for Space on Asheville's Limited Courts
Show Notes Transcript

One of the most pitched rivalries in all of sports is probably taking place in your neighborhood: Tennis players vs. pickleball players. Outdoor public courts that tennis players had to themselves since the dawn of history are now the site of community turf wars.

Today's episode features representatives from the Asheville Tennis Association and Asheville Pickleball Association. There are only 11 asphalt tennis courts in Asheville’s parks and recreation system. Pickleballers have made those courts their surfaces of choice. They’ve ardently lobbied city council for courts dedicated to their sport, but those don’t appear on the horizon anytime soon. Parks officials have brokered meetings between the two sides and come up with an even-handed, agreed-upon schedule of use that nobody seems particularly happy with.

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Jeff Joyce: my name is Jeff Joyce. I am the immediate past president of the Asheville tennis association. We are a five Oh one C three nonprofit corporation recognized by the secretary of state North Carolina have been since 19.

I think it was 81 when it was formed. Wow. So we are a long time. Community Tennis Association representing Asheville and 

Matt Peiken: Buncombe County. Forty two years. How long ago did you get involved? 

Jeff Joyce: I've been involved since the mid nineties. I left in 2009. I retired from the Parks and Recreation Department in 2015.

Started back on the board at that 

Matt Peiken: time So you were involved in the Asheville Parks and Rec Department. Yes, 

Jeff Joyce: sir. I was for 

Matt Peiken: 30 years. Oh my goodness. Okay, so That was your gateway into Being involved with the ATA 

Jeff Joyce: Yes back in the early to mid 90s Buster Brown who Was the originator and owner built the Asheville Racket Club came to me.

Buster had been doing a series of clinics for underprivileged children for several years, just on his own, with no fanfare. And he decided he needed some help, so he approached me. To see if the Parks and Recreation Department would like to get involved with it. Buster is a legend in this community.

A member of the North Carolina Tennis Hall of Fame and the Western North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame. And I said, of course. How could I... Possibly turn down buster. 

Matt Peiken: So you succeeded a legend 

Jeff Joyce: in this? I wouldn't say I succeeded anything. I Buster I still work with buster to this day. We run a summer camp week long camp for under served underprivileged you're getting, you're 

Matt Peiken: getting to the heart a little bit of what I wanted to ask.

Why is there an Asheville Tennis Association? What is the mission and 

Jeff Joyce: role? Mission of the ATA is to promote and develop the growth of tennis in Asheville, in the Asheville area. Simple as that. That is the mission statement of the United States Tennis Association, which... ATA is a registered CTA, Community Tennis Association, of USTA.

So we, we report to the mothership, so to speak. Got it. And it's a, USTA is a national governing body for tennis in the United States. It owns and runs the US Open every year up at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. There's 17 sections within the U SS t A and we are part of the southern section and part of the North Carolina district.

So it, it feeds down and we get money from national section and the district office to help run our c T 

Matt Peiken: A. How many members do you have in your tent association? 

Jeff Joyce: We don't have a quote unquote membership. We have literally thousands of tennis players in this community that support us.

We have a board of about 20 and it's very active board. It is a working board. We're very proud of that. Working in what 

Matt Peiken: sense 

Jeff Joyce: fundraising and we run programs, we raise funds. We make sure that this board of tennis is provided and exposed to the entire community. Tennis has this long time thought process that it is a rich white sport and we proved that it is not.

How do you prove that? We have several programs for underserved children. Best term is under resourced children. Some people don't like the term underserved. Kids that live in housing projects in low income areas, lots of kids of color. We have several programs that provide tennis to those communities.

For example, we've got instructors that go out to the Asheville Parks and Recreation summer day camp programs that are located throughout low income areas, and we take tennis out to them. We have a program during the spring and fall called the Terminators, and it is a our version of the National Junior Tennis and Learning Program, which Arthur Ashe formed and Charlie Pasquarelli back in the sixties and it has used to be the National Junior Tennis League is now National Junior Tennis and Learning because there is an educational component attached to that.

I know there's also a 

Matt Peiken: cultural component, when people talk about tennis being a white sport and of the privileged, you know, there's a cultural element to that too. How do you and your organization, maybe taking cues from the National Tennis Association. I don't know. But how do you eclipse some of the cultural barriers that some might perceive as keeping them from tennis or not relating to tennis, young people of color and tennis?

How do you bridge that gap? Well,

Jeff Joyce: You have to take it to them and you take it to them on their turf. Which is what we are doing. Or 

Matt Peiken: on their courts. Are there enough courts in their neighborhoods? 

Jeff Joyce: You don't necessarily need a tennis court to play tennis. We do a lot of clinics and parking lots. And we set up a portable net.

Use either foam or low compression tennis balls and run our clinics right there in the middle of the parking lot at a lot of cases because most of most, if not all of the housing authority locations don't have tennis courts. So we have to adjust and do the best we can. If it rains, we go into a meeting space.

I could set up A tennis court in the studio, if we needed to really 

Matt Peiken: any difficulty. So you improvise that way. How has that gone over? Gosh, 

Jeff Joyce: yes, absolutely. You can teach both children and adults to sport a tennis without being on a real full size tennis court with the standard yellow tennis ball.


Matt Peiken: So tell, can you give me a sense of the numbers ever since this has become an active pursuit of the Asheville Tennis Association in terms of, teaching, recruiting, just educating people of color, young and old about tennis. Give me a sense of 

Jeff Joyce: the numbers. In the last 10 years, thousands.

Because we'll go, we'll take it to those kids. We go to eight sites every summer and we go to each of those sites twice and there's anywhere from 30 to 50 kids in every site. We've been doing this for 10 years and gosh, my brain doesn't work. But easily thousands of kids because, the ages kids keep growing up the terminators program that we run has been anywhere from 20 to 40 kids at a, any specific time.

We used to do this on Saturday mornings and we moved it to. To a couple of afternoons during the week after school programs to where they would get 45 minutes on the tennis court and then 45 minutes in the classroom where they got helped with their homework or they got special skills or whatever the case may be.

Matt Peiken: So give me a sense, you mentioned where this program you can improvise and use indoor spaces, parking lots, elsewhere. How many public tennis courts are you involved with? Is the ATA involved with programming on? 

Jeff Joyce: We have over the course of the past couple of years moved a lot of our programming to Aston Park Tennis Center.

Have a great relationship with the city with use of that facility. We run most of the programs there or have our hand in most of the programs there. But then we use the three courts at Oakley Park. For both junior and adult clinics out in the neighborhoods, and we have tried to stay off of the other courts.

In order to promote open play. Oh, 

Matt Peiken: okay, so like Weaver Park, other places, you don't do formal clinics there to keep it where people could just show up and 

Jeff Joyce: play. There are five locations, five parks that have hard court tennis. And that's Weaver Park, Kenilworth Park, Oakley Park, Malvern Hills Park, and I'm leaving one out.

What's the one in Montford? Montford Park. That's the fifth one. 

Matt Peiken: I imagine up until... Pickleball became a thing, you had those courts to yourself. Tennis players didn't have any sense of competition for the space. If the public wanted to use it, there were public spaces.

And you had formal programs on some of these other spaces, the larger spaces. When did pickleball even become... On your organization's radars. Oh, there's another use for our courts 

Jeff Joyce: It was a year or two before the pandemic probably 2018 is when the tennis players began to go to one of the parks to play tennis and all of a sudden they saw pickleball nets set up and pickleball folks playing on the tennis courts.

And there were some very how's the best to describe it? A few intense confrontations between tennis players and pickleball players, and the city had the stance that they were multi use courts. So we, the sport of tennis, had to adapt to that. 

Matt Peiken: So this actually, you went, you would talk to the city parks and rec department and say, hey, this is going on, on the courts.

Were you the first to approach the City Parks and Rec Department or had the pickleball people first approach them to try to get permission to use them? Yeah, that'd 

Jeff Joyce: be a question for the Parks and Recreation Department. I don't know which came first, the chicken or the egg on that one.

So, All I know is, Basically, we tried to coexist for a while and and we're successful at it for a while. While there were some very contentious incidents on tennis courts between pickleball players and tennis players. We somehow got through it. It was worse during the wintertime because Aston Park tennis center closes.

December 1st of every year. 

Matt Peiken: So you mentioned some contentious confrontations. What would happen? 

Jeff Joyce: I don't know of any physical confrontations, but a lot of verbal, in your face confrontations. There were lots of those. 

Matt Peiken: Were there events that the Asheville Tennis Association had planned? Whether clinics or tournaments, weekly matches, and you would show up, and then there'd be pickleball happening.

Was it like that? 

Jeff Joyce: The association, no. Weekly games between tennis players. Yes. But no we were not pushed out of any of our association activities or clinics or any of those kinds of things. We worked very closely with parks and recreation department to make sure that wouldn't happen.

They have a permitting system and we would make sure when we had, say, a clinic at Oakley Park that we had a written permit And we would go post that the morning of a clinic that would take place that afternoon. You 

Matt Peiken: mentioned how you noticed this, or at least tennis players began noticing pickleball even before the pandemic.

It's become much more popular since the pandemic. Has it become such a glut of activity on the courts that it's become a real problem for everyone? Are there just not enough clay surfaces now to have? to meet both the demand of pickleball and 

Jeff Joyce: tennis? No, there's not enough court space. And the clay courts at Aston Park are tennis courts.

The pickleball really does not bounce on a clay tennis court. The competition between courts is for the Hard courts, the asphalt surface tennis courts, like the five facilities that we talked about. So 

Matt Peiken: exempting so Aston Park is not part of this issue. It's more, it's the asphalt court surfaces, the five parks you mentioned.

And between those, there aren't that many courts, right? You mentioned at Weaver Park, I think there are two courts, 

Jeff Joyce: Montford. There are a total of 11 hard surface tennis courts in town. 

Matt Peiken: That's small by any measure. 

Jeff Joyce: It's ridiculously small. 

Matt Peiken: Even just for the need of tennis. Yes. Correct? Correct.

From your vantage, what has the emergence of pickleball done to public tennis in this town? 

Jeff Joyce: It's made tennis players plan better. Yeah, I guess by necessity. By necessity. With the shared use plan that the City Parks and Recreation Department put together. Which we, accepted and actually presented that compromise to the city, and the reason for that was that the city had a potential plan of converting the three tennis courts at Oakley Park to completely pickleball and do away with them as tennis courts.

Wow. That is what got the attention of the tennis community because so many things happened. at Oakley Park. Reynolds Middle School practices there. They play their matches there. We run clinics there. It's a three court facility. It's a very popular tennis facility. We did not want to lose that. That would have cut the number of hard court surface tennis courts down to Eight 

Matt Peiken: was in the city was the city wanting to funnel all pickleball to Oakley saying Hey of the five facilities, let's give one Solely to pickleball, but then they can't play pickleball at any of the others Was that the plan 

Jeff Joyce: that was one of the thought processes but neither did the Tennis Association nor the 

pickleball group approved that because their plan was to turn those three tennis courts into eight pickleball courts and the pickleball community that said that was not enough pickleball courts 

Matt Peiken: for their use. So you had an agreement if from different vantage points, at least on that. Tell me where did you presented this plan or the ATA presented an alternative plan.

Give me the details of that plan. 

Jeff Joyce: It basically was twofold. One, go ahead and put pickleball lines on all the tennis courts in town. Go ahead and do that. We would rather you do that than us lose the access to three tennis courts. It was, would not be fair to the tennis community and especially the young people that play so much at Oakley Park.

So we were looking out for the tennis players and the youth of the community with that respect. And then put together, not only go ahead and put the lines down, blended lines for pickleball, but put together a schedule to where it's a shared use, pickleball has their times, tennis has their times.

How does 

Matt Peiken: that work? Because you would think on the surface of it, people might want to play pickleball at the same time. Other people might want to play tennis and vice versa. How do you divide that time that what's optimal pickleball time 

Jeff Joyce: versus optimal tennis time? We sat down with the Pickleball Group.

We've had several meetings with them, by the way. I want to make sure that's understood. We met with them in June of 2022 at the encouragement of the Sports Commission in town, along with the Parks and Recreation Department, and had our First general open meeting. 

Matt Peiken: What was that like? Were you at that meeting?

I was there. Was it tense? Was it 

Jeff Joyce: odd? No, it was not at all. Okay. And what we told them at that time was we completely support and we still completely support pickleball having its own facility. Give them as many courts as they need and give us a tennis course back. So that is our stance. And that has been consistent from day one.

Is, yes, we will support that concept. We want you to have your own facility because we want places for tennis players to play. And you are cutting into the time that tennis players have to play on tennis courts. 

Matt Peiken: But the city land is finite, we have affordable housing issues, there's a lot of uses people want to have for public land, and I can't imagine a new dedicated pickleball facility is high on that list. 

Jeff Joyce: I would have to agree with you, which is another reason that we saw that. The tennis community understands that.

Therefore we felt... It was in everybody, the entire community's best interest for us to do that compromise and have a shared access to the tennis courts, which, by the way the pickleball community and the Parks and Recreation Department call racket courts instead of tennis courts, which, sorry, you're never going to get the tennis community to buy into that, they're tennis courts, they were built as tennis courts over the course of the last 50 years.

They were And they will always be tennis courts as far as we are concerned now. Yes, we are open to sharing them and because no, I do not see the city putting the money into it. It's necessary to have a facility for pickleball that covers all of pickleball, all the courts that they would need in order to house their sport.

Matt Peiken: You mentioned you have your separate schedules. I imagine a lot of people just show up with tennis rackets to go play, and then there's pickleball happening. Are there set hours that you can educate the public about that you know that pickleball players are using this court at these times?

Jeff Joyce: Yes, and that schedule is promoted not only on our website the Asheville Tennis Association website, but the Asheville Parks and Recreation website as well. Plus, there are signs up at every... Every public park that's got on the tennis court fence, as you walk in, so you see who has the priority on the court.

And for example, there are five parks that have those hard courts and that are shared. And Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Sunday, it might be pickleball in the morning, okay, at three of the parks. The other two parks on those days have tennis. as the priority. In the afternoon, it flip flops. And it, it changes based upon each location.

The way we figured it out was we wanted half the courts available in the morning for pickleball and half for tennis over the course of seven day weeks and the same in the afternoon. 

When this thing started in April, early April, I think is when the shared use facility use and the times that started it got off to a very good start. I think I heard almost zero complaints seem like the pickleball folks were coming during their times and the tennis people were coming during their times.

Recently, though, I've heard a few more going. Confrontations, so to speak of folks being there at times when they're it's the other sports use and there have been a couple, a few confrontations now, will that continue? I think that it's incumbent upon both communities to, to try to weed that out.

Matt Peiken: Is it a 50 50 split? It is. How do you feel about 

Jeff Joyce: that ? I, of course, there are two ways of looking at that, and I'll be fair and look at it both ways.

These courts are tennis courts, as I said before and tennis should be the priority. But we have agreed to allow the pickleball folks on there and they deserve the same respect that tennis players do. We have accepted that And the pickleball players will tell you that, and this is very common, you can drive by Weaver Park at a pickleball time and you'll see 30 to 40 people all playing and all rotating in and out.

And that's all fine and dandy. And you'll see on tennis times, you might only have, 4 on one court and 4 on the other playing doubles. The way the pickleball folks look at that is that's 8 tennis players and I've got 40 pickleball players. The 40 pickleball players should have the priority time, have more time.

That's a crazy way to look at it. Okay, I'll take McCormick Field for example. Back when I was running that, or overseeing that, the Indigo Girls came to town. And we had a big concert there. And there were 8, 000 people there.

Compared to... Generally, the tourist drawl, 2, 000, 3, 000 people there. Are you telling me that a concert should have priority over the Asheville Tourist Baseball Club on a baseball field? No. Memorial Stadium the same way. We've held concerts up there. Had Charlie Daniels Band up there with 10, 000 people one time.

Is that more important than the Ultimate Frisbee Group that might have 30? Numbers don't always tell the true story. 

Matt Peiken: It's an interesting point, and I know the city actually now with the plan to renovate McCormick Field, that there is a condition now in the new terms that it will be open for year round community use, and in a way that it wasn't before.

Pickleball, you mentioned that there might be times where there are 40 people waiting to play as opposed to on tennis times, there'll be eight people, and they get, they form two sets of doubles, and they play. Is pickleball... Eclipsing in terms of the numbers of people playing from what you can see are more people playing pickleball than are playing tennis right now.

Jeff Joyce: Absolutely not. And I've got some figures in a report from the USTA over the year 2020 and 2021 tennis grew more than pickleball is. Really? And, yes. 

Tennis is still what's the best way of putting it, it , far out, you know, eclipses the numbers and pickleball.

If you look at it on a nationwide basis pickleball is, yes, it's growing. Racquetball grew back in the eighties, big time. And yeah, whatever happened to racquetball, that's still happening. Exactly. At one time lacrosse.

Lacrosse said they were the fastest growing sport in the country. And they were. Because they went from a very small number to a medium sized number. And pickleball has grown. And I will give them credit and I support them playing all they want to play. It's just not at the expense. Of folks that won't play tennis 

Matt Peiken: what do you think is going to happen? , you said tennis is growing. Pickleball is certainly growing. We aren't getting more courts in the near future. What do you think is the tipping point here? What's going 

Jeff Joyce: to happen? That's a very good question and I wish I had the answer to. I do believe that if the new pickleball association will work with the Asheville Tennis Association and let's put a plan together and we have pledge to help them every way they can to get that new facility.

Parks and recreation is getting ready to undergo a master planning process. We will certainly go to those meetings and support. Not only the growth of tennis, but the growth of pickleball as well and push the founding fathers in the community to do something because if not, the problems are going to continue to snowball.

Matt Peiken: Is there a crossover between tennis players and pickleball players? Are there people who play both sports? Yeah. Absolutely. How has that been for relationships between the sports? 

Jeff Joyce: Some of those folks that play both are some of the better people in town because they see the advantages to both sports and they enjoy playing both sports.

So they want both sports to have access to the courts out there. 

Matt Peiken: So that have they become sort of ambassadors in a way or diplomats between the two 

Jeff Joyce: sides? Some of them have tried. And yeah, your hardcore pickleball players and your hardcore tennis players don't want to hear the words compromise too much.

I think we're just going to have to continue to try our best to get along and work with each other because I, in the next one to three years, I don't see anything happening. As far as new court facilities at all. So we're just going to have to continue to, be the adults in the room and continue to work with each other.

And for those that don't want to work with other folks, then they may be left out completely. I don't know. It's upon both the tennis community and the pickleball community to get along.

David Kelly: My introduction to pickleball was. Eight years ago? Maybe slightly longer at this point. It was being played in the Y, YMCA. And I wandered in and heard this annoying noise and it looked like people were having a lot of fun, so I kept it up.

Things are radically different now than they were then. 

Matt Peiken: You came in here wearing a knee brace or a knee sock, I don't know exactly what that is. It tells me you're pretty active.

What were you doing in your... Activity world, when pickleball came to your attention. I was 

David Kelly: there just to get a workout in the Y. But I dabbled in tennis a little bit, a fair amount of ping pong, table tennis when I was a kid, a little bit of racquetball in college, a little bit of squash even.

So I'd always been around racquet sports, paddle sports, and it just seemed like a natural kind of fit. 

Matt Peiken: Did you take to it immediately, did, was there something about pickleball that captured you in a way you would not have anticipated, and if so, what was it?

David Kelly: Yeah, it's a weird, addictive quality that it's hard to define it, because it's a game, a sport, however you want to perceive it, it will be that. It can be challenging, it can be just fun. As for what I'm wearing, I was just on the courts at Oakley teaching a couple of groups.

And that's how I spend most of my time these days is teaching. But when I was arriving there was these four guys, young guys, showed up at the court and got out of their truck and they went over to play pickleball. They've been there numerous times, I've seen them. That's a group I would not have seen even one year 

Matt Peiken: ago.

You said a lot has changed. What's changed? 

David Kelly: I think that overall critical mass has been reached in the pickleball world. 18 months ago, most people may have heard of pickleball, but now everybody for better, for worse has heard of it.

And for some of them, it's the bane of civilization, which I get. But so many other people are like. 

Matt Peiken: Things seem to accelerate very quickly in terms of becoming from fragmented, interested pickleball players into an association. You mentioned how you'd find courts that you could play on these were all tennis courts, right?

That you would go to is am I correct on that or were there other places you would go play? There were 

David Kelly: scattered other places, but none of them were designed for pickleball I mean when I was playing there was an awful lot of stuff going on indoors in gym spaces And there still is some of that in in, for example, Stevens Lee and Shiloh, but since COVID it has become very much seen as a outdoor sport.

Matt Peiken: And that's continued, right? Culturally. What is it about tennis courts, because tennis courts aren't built for pickleball either, what is it about tennis courts that work so well for pickleball?

David Kelly: They are there, they are flat, and you can Squeeze pickleball courts onto tennis courts. It's far from ideal. But it is a way to get people playing 

Matt Peiken: pickleball now, once you started going outdoors, you said covid necessitated that and it's kept up that way.

When you started playing on tennis courts, I imagine there had to be Wow, tennis players are using the courts we want to use, or you'd be using the courts and tennis players would come. I would imagine there'd be that inevitability of just use. The demand for tennis courts had to deeply accelerate once pickleball wanted to use tennis courts.

Am I correct in that? 

David Kelly: So the conversion of all tennis courts into also being Pickleball lined was is fairly new, and that was something that we did as an organization in conjunction with Parks and Rec and the Asheville Tennis Association. But prior to that, there were numerous sites which had there were dual lined Montford.

Oakley had Two of them dual lined, I believe and I think one in Malvern Park. 

Matt Peiken: Did these dual lined courts come from you working with the city? How did that happen? 

Christina Dupuch: Yes, so there was a period of time as we were waiting to become official organization and doing that process we began sort of our own campaign of attending the Asheville City Council meetings on a regular basis.

So we went there at least once a month as a group. I, and maybe somebody else, always signed up to be public comment, and so we were letting ourselves known. We were trying to really positively represent the pickleball community, talk about the issues on the courts, talk about the number of people, the amount of interest of pickleball.

And we did that for several months, and we got to know people on the council, and they got to know us, and then one day we received a call from the Asheville Parks and Rec. that they wanted to set up a couple of meetings. between us the Parks and Rec and the Asheville Tennis Association.

So the Parks and Rec facilitated three meetings and we were there to really the ask was we wanted dedicated pickleball courts and would they turn one of the parks into that. And so what we did after that negotiation of three meetings, the city agreed to line all the tennis courts to be dual line for pickleball and tennis.

Matt Peiken: I can see on one level that solves at least a use issue when you're out there, you have the lines, but on another sense, it doesn't do anything to address the demand. You know that while you can go out there, now suddenly tennis and pickleball are competing for a finite resource. Am I correct in seeing it that way?

David Kelly: Absolutely. This is a stopgap measure, which basically. It, it treats tennis in a not a particularly attractive way. What do you mean? Because it will that, that's a sport which is feeling the brunt of a, of another sport. Basketball's not competing for baseball, or, it's just not fair for 

Matt Peiken: tennis.

I guess the closest thing I could think of Indoor, there are basketball courts that at times are used for volleyball. But these are scheduled events. It's not, there aren't pick up volleyball games and pick up basketball games that are looking to use the same facility. So you just spoke to, and I'm going to use the word, an incursion that pickleball, made on something that was solely for tennis before was there any sort of diplomacy? How would, how did you go about trying to break bread with the tennis community over this? It 

David Kelly: was out of necessity, really. 

Christina Dupuch: I think so, but I also think it's important to know in these negotiations, and always, we were always advocating for dedicated courts.

We went from 11 line courts to 22 dual line courts. But another part of this conversation was there would need to be a schedule. Of the course of when pickleball would play and tennis would play so all that has been implemented now To just find some, reasonable balance and courtesy to each sport.

Matt Peiken: Let me ask you. So how do you go about negotiating? schedule because is pickleball a morning sport and tennis is not? How did that work? That, that in the practical sense of creating a schedule that would appease, if not harmonize this situation, it 

David Kelly: was for example, Oakley, a couple of mornings, it'd be pickleball up until two o'clock and then tennis would take over.

Other mornings it was tennis, as the primary sport. If the courts are empty, either one can use them. And, the reality is that that I think that it's fair to say that, without any doubt, pickleball is using the space, if you just look at it, define it as space, somewhere between 70 percent of the time, even though the allocation, the time allocation is 50 50.

Matt Peiken: How do you know that? Because 

David Kelly: I'm on those courts an awful lot. 

Matt Peiken: And so because of that, do you lobby the city? You said your main goal was to get dedicated courts. That, from what I understand, didn't happen. It isn't going to happen because there just isn't. space to turn into courts.

Am I right on that at the moment? 

David Kelly: There isn't imperative to do it. There is not. There is, there's no, I mean, clearly that's has not been a priority for the city. Get that. The city's got a lot of things on his plates, but a lot of other municipalities have managed to make it part of what they do.

Matt Peiken: You mentioned priorities. I can think of, cities trying to develop more housing, for instance, and there's trying to get homeless people off the streets, and there's that kind of thing for space. When you look at it in those lights, is it a grimace okay, I understand, that has to be the way?

Or is there some solution that your group is coming up with that you've presented the city with that they're not considering? 

Christina Dupuch: We have not presented anything to the city. I think we need to really be better with the data we have. We need to really do a feasibility study. I don't see that the city is saying, No, we're not going to help you. Like anything a city or any type of government agency does, We need...

to gather the information we need to probably find some more different partners. A public private partnership would probably work really well. What we know is the city has the land, they have the courts, they have the public places where so much of all this happens. So I think it absolutely will be a collaborative, I believe, partnership over time.

Matt Peiken: David, you said from your own observation that Pickleball is using the courts about 60 to 70% of the time. And yet there's I guess from what I understand, an equity in terms of schedule that, pickleball and tennis get an equal allotment of hours. Yes. So talk about how you came up with that schedule and what were the challenges in working with, tennis?

Players who understandably in one sense would see this as. Why do we need to negotiate for our quote unquote courts? Yeah, I would think that would be one of the challenges initially. So tell me, how do you even begin negotiating? So 

David Kelly: our courts, that term is definitely used a lot. These are public facilities that, that tennis did not, I, I get that that they take possession of them and they feel about them that way, but, There are also private places where you can go to play.

And just like in Pickleball, that's a totally different scenario. You don't own, you don't own this facility. It's not yours. I can see why you would feel, that you were harmed by not being able to do something at any point. And again, my, my I don't have any... Real beef with tennis.

I think they've been shafted in this. That's not gonna, that's not the solution is to have endless peace with tennis. It's just, it's not treating a whole bunch of people engaging in something passionately, which just keeps on growing. For example, last night, I was again at Oakley at, up until maybe 6, 6.

30 teaching. Last night was tennis time. There were 16 pickleballers out there playing. And 

Matt Peiken: no tennis players? No. These hours the negotiated hours, were not based on, you are using this for classes during these times, we're using this time for classes, they were just open hours for tennis and open hours for pickleball.

Do I have that right? Yeah I 

David Kelly: mean that you there are people teaching tennis. They're teaching people teaching pickleball on those courts the parks erect they understand this and They're okay with it. They may change their policy in the future. 

Matt Peiken: One of my Early educations about pickleball was a New York Times article about volume, and I'm sure you see the eye, you rolled your eyes.

I want to tell the audience and you even you, at the very beginning of this conversation, you alluded to that, it's become popular, maybe to the consternation of some people. Noise of pickleball certainly has to do with that. And as you've moved outdoors and you're in neighborhoods like Montford, which are right in the heart of, a quiet, residential neighborhood.

What has been the feedback in terms of noise in neighborhoods? And how do you you as a sport respond to this, these complaints about noise that neighborhoods never had to deal with before 

David Kelly: It's legitimate. There's no way around that.

That's why it would serve cities to think about what they're doing and to build these wisely. There are ways to mitigate. But the location is always I think the most important thing. So just again, making do with what's existing. Thank you. It's not, it's not serving either the community, tennis or 

Christina Dupuch: pickleball.

Yeah, and I think to be really fair and honest that in the Montford community, there have been complaints and concerns from the neighbors. We have absolutely, if it's come to any of the pickleball players attention, we've shared that with the city. It's been talked about at city council. Those neighbors and people have written and made their contacts.

I think the Parks and Recs, they, one of the interventions, they turn off the lights a little bit earlier just to kind of control, you know, what can you do? I think there's been conversations with neighbors and tried to do some physical intervention around the courts just to be respectful. This might be a 

Matt Peiken: completely naive question.

Please tell me if it is. Can there be a different material used for the ball and the racket so that it, tennis doesn't make the same noise now there is a volume to tennis but it's not the same. What is it about the material in pickleball that is immutable or can something be done for outdoor pickleball?

David Kelly: There is some research being done about materials, Not only paddles, but also balls., unless you change it radically, I'm not that optimistic about, so I just think that it needs to be worked out in a different way. 

Matt Peiken: You were talking about your ideal is a dedicated court.

Do you have a location that you have proposed, or locations, no? Nothing like that has come up. We have not gotten that far yet. Let me ask you, how many people are members of the Asheville Pickleball Association? And to your estimate, of the total participation in pickleball in this community, what percentage would you say are members of the APA?

Christina Dupuch: We are truly new. We're getting ready to start a membership drive.

We are less than a hundred members today. We're getting ready to have a monthly newsletter come out and that, that'll start building it. I think we'll be trying to really get to the different courts and different venues to really educate people about us.

And what we are really promoting in regard to our membership is that we need each other. The organization needs you, we need you as a member, because I believe to go forward and to get to the vision that we have of dedicated pickleball courts, if that's with the city or county or a private investor, we really have to really officially say, these are our members, this is how many we have, and this is a big piece of the community that really desires dedicated pickleball courts.

Matt Peiken: You're getting to a question I have about what are the missions of the APA? Why be a non profit organization, membership based organization? What are you looking 

Christina Dupuch: for? Our mission talks a lot about that we are an advocacy and educational organization all around pickleball. We help to help organize the community in regard to tournaments and leagues.

One of our big focuses will be youth, not only adults and all ages, really, because that's the beautiful piece about the sport. It's open to just about anyone at all and in any physical condition with the ultimate goal being dedicated pickleball courts. But I think what if you would, what this has been going on even before we became an official organization.

Just this past Saturday, they had a free clinic for people who didn't know anything about pickleball. 

Matt Peiken: Lastly, in lieu of dedicated courts, is the schedule, the way it's laid out, is this, treaty, 

can this work? For a quite a while before some other political solution comes to 

David Kelly: bear it has a finite life because then the numbers are growing to such an extent that they will be overwhelmed and honestly this the city has known about this for a while So it's not a surprise what's 

Matt Peiken: going on.

Is there a way to move some of this, the participation back indoors? You were saying how COVID really moved outdoors and it has stayed outdoors. Is there a way to push it back to some degree into the YWCA or no? Why is that? But there 

David Kelly: is, there is still stuff going on there. Don't get me wrong, there is.

But that day has come and gone. When I was , starting to play, maybe seven years ago, I was indoors all the time. And now, I can't remember the last time I was indoors. You talked about our mission. Not only the practical kind of pragmatic stuff, but just supporting this huge social network that's the real strength of Pickleball.

And that is actually the, I don't want to use the word threat, but tennis kind of looks at it as a threat, is that they don't understand that because it is so accessible, that's why it's so popular. 

Matt Peiken: So where are we at six months from now, a year from now with Pickleball versus tennis in terms of using the same finite facilities. 

Christina Dupuch: I think the good thing is we have a really great relationship with the Asheville city parks and rec And we'll continue to nurture that I think we're really good communicators in talking about here's the good things going on in the courts And then here are the challenges we're facing and then I think those challenges will continue to be part of our conversation with them.

And I want to be very respectful on this podcast because we've said this every time we've been to city council. It is very hard to talk about pickleball when you have the homeless issues we have in this community and anything else. It is humbling when you go to these meetings and you see what the city is faced and the cost to take care of those problems and then here we want dedicated pickleball courts.

So we want to be very respectful as an organization to say If you will come partner with us, you figure out what you can do for us and support us and then let us find some other partners who can come into this conversation of the vision. 

Matt Peiken: Wonderful. Is there anything we haven't talked about? Any initiatives, any thoughts that you think is important for people to understand contextually to where we're at?

David Kelly: It's really interesting. If you look at the small towns around us and the bigger towns, this is putting a lot of pressure on the situation in Asheville. Because the contrast is fairly stark. What 

Matt Peiken: do you mean? What do you attribute that to? 

David Kelly: Different outlooks, different priorities that that maybe Johnson City has.

Knoxville, Greenville... By the end of this year, 100 dedicated courts. For Pickleball. 

Matt Peiken: Greenville County. Wow. And where's Buncombe County?

Christina Dupuch: On the public system, none. I couldn't give you a number and what the private, other organizations have in Asheville. We have zero. At some point in time it begins to make no sense that We don't have any dedicated courts If you it doesn't really matter about the size of town or community or County or you take a hundred miles around us You would find a lot of public Courts that communities and counties their leaders have decided to do and invest in.

Because I think the other thing, the elephant in the room is this is a financial investment that has good returns on it. I think for the people that you speak with who are doing this business in other places. So we're not asking for something that would be a money pit. We're asking for something that we believe would be part of economic growth.

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