COLORADO SPRINGS AREA PICKLEBALL HISTORY as of 2016
"Thank you Bob Holman for keeping records and writing up this wonderful history of Pickleball's start in Colorado Springs!"
PREFACE: This is a story about a local sport with meager beginnings which grew to a well-organized, fast growing organization, totally supported by volunteers. Pickleball provides great health benefits to players of all ages and skill levels. Our organization sponsors major tournaments that attract visiting players from all over North America.
THE EARLY DAYS : In 2003, Keith Bisel, a USAPA roving Ambassador, put a notice in the newspaper to come to Monument Valley Park (MVP) to learn pickleball. A handful of prospects (Steve and Ramona Boone, Sue Jackson, John Foss, and Norm Silver) showed up, started playing every Saturday and chalking the lines. Eventually CoS Parks, Recreation & Cultural Services (PR&CS) approved permanent pickleball lines for 5 courts, painted by a group of dedicated players. By 2011 there were 75 players on the email list kept by Val Olsen, which was later turned over to Bob Holman. In 2011 and 2012 Steve and Ramona Boone gave free pickleball lessons at noon every Saturday from June through August to highlight the game. At this point we also came to realize that we needed to raise money to create a dedicated pickleball venue, and the easiest way to do that was to have tournaments. The next step would to be to form a club, which would organize the volunteers and run the tournaments.
FROM RAGTAG TO RECOGNITION: In early March, 2012, Jeff Norton and Bob Holman were partnering on the far NE corner of the then “pot-holed” 90+ year-old asphalt MVP courts. Jeff stepped back for a shot, and fell backwards into a depression in the court. That did it! A call to the Principal Planner, Chris Lieber at PR&CS resulted in a meeting with Jeff and Bob, where they learned what must happen to get court-repair action--a brief presentation to the monthly PR&CS Board meeting, demonstrating our needs and most importantly how we could help fund this effort. If approved by their Board, we could then earn a formal spot on their next monthly agenda. PR&CS had many competing interests and few on the PR&CS Advisory Board knew about pickleball. We shared a startling 30 day, MVP court usage survey, showing that for every one tennis player there were ten pickleballers (30 tennis players vs. 310 pickleball players during the month of May). In contrast, 30 years ago, there was always a waiting line of tennis players at MVP.
Our 2012 presentation by Charlie Rush to the PR&CS Advisory Board included these benefits to the city: improved MVP security (Pickleball player presence was reducing the vagrant/gang/graffiti factor); all-inclusive (all-age, all skill-level) and social activity; a "Life Sport"--if you can walk, you can play, a natural racket sport evolution for seniors; a natural entry-level racket sport for youth (small racket, big ball); a FUN aerobic exercise for a healthy lifestyle; tournament potential to enhance economic vitality of Colorado Springs; and a self-sustaining partnership with the City using tournament revenue for court development and maintenance.
This presentation was well received by the Board and they suggested that both tennis and pickleball groups meet with staff and discuss needs, maintenance requirements for pickleball courts, possible new courts for new activities, and to work on developing a relationship. In response, Jeff Norton, Charlie Rush, and Nancy Steffy met at PR&CS with Chris Lieber and executives from the Tennis Association. The purpose: to lay out the next steps in a partnership with our clubs to help grow the sport of pickleball in the City. A good spirit of compromise and coordination was established. The recommendations were to create a Friends-type group, seek financial support, create a budget, and develop more specific plans prior to coming back to the Board.
The Gazette featured us on the front page in January, 2012 with a photo showing a dozen of us pickleballers shoveling off 18" of snow at MVP. Other Gazette articles that year included these headlines: “PICKLEBALL PLAYERS TOLD TO RAISE CASH FOR COURTS” and “OLDER ATHLETES RELISH IN SPORT”.
FROM RECOGNITION TO ORGANIZING: In 2012 the Pikes Peak Pickleball Club was formed. See Exhibit this link for former and current officers: https://pppa.wildapricot.org/pppa-org-chart. Bylaws were adopted by the members. Dues were set at $20. New T-shirts with a logo designed by our retired Navy Seal, Andy Vittitoe, proclaims, "COLORADO SPRINGS PICKLEBALL HAS ALTITUDE!" Friends of Pikes Peak Pickleball was subsequently established as a 501 (c) (3) to raise money, tax free. The first year's dues were seed money for the forthcoming tournament, a 2-day proof of concept, nationally advertised pickleball tournament in September, 2012. See this link all tournament details: https://pppa.wildapricot.org/page-18131 It was a great success, and the first ever sanctioned tournament in Colorado. Also, we gave over 150 new player lessons in 2012. In November, 2012, we proudly briefed the PR&CS Advisory Board and presented them with a check for $500. Succeeding tournaments produced checks to PR&CS of $1,000 in 2013, and $500 in 2014. In 2014, we also gave $650 to Friends of Monument Valley Park.
FROM SEMI-PRO TO PRO: After several years of rapid growth and several successful tournaments, we were now actively supported by the Pikes Peak Community Tennis Association, the Friends of Monument Valley Park, and Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services (PR&CS). In 2013, thanks to the persistent efforts of Vice President Jeff Norton, PR&CS sponsored a community outreach process involving comments and a public meeting with residents and businesses within a mile of Monument Valley Park. Based on the overwhelming support for pickleball at that community meeting and a commitment from the Great Plains Regional Co-directors, Steve and Ramona Boone, to host the Inaugural 2015 USAPA Great Plains Regional Pickleball Tournament in Colorado Springs given an adequate number of courts, the Parks & Rec Advisory Board approved fully converting the 5 old dual-use asphalt tennis courts into a 13-court dedicated MVP pickleball venue. The conversion was finished in 2014 in time to support the 3rd Annual Pikes Peak or Bust Tournament. Also in 2014, we changed the name of our club to Pikes Peak Pickleball Association (PPPA) which now had some 400 members, an elected Board, a professional looking website, and 15 (note: 26 in 2017) very active committees: https://pppa.wildapricot.org/who-is-who. The added number of courts was also a welcome addition to advancing the Sport of pickleball in Colorado Springs. Based on a 30-day direct survey, we averaged over 70 players per day, playing about 2.3 hours each (the most intensive use of any PR&CS facility in the city). That same year, the 10-year Parks Masterplan update took place and several community meetings were well supported by our PPPA members. Their numerous inputs helped ensure that pickleball facility improvements were prominently included in the Plan approved by City Council in late 2014, and specifically that a more permanent and cost-effective post-tension concrete court solution for the MVP courts could be considered and funded by the City in the future.
FROM ASPHALT TO CONCRETE: From 2012 through 2015, PR&CS had been spending approximately about $33,000 a year to repair the 90+ year old asphalt courts from the damage incurred each winter from the freeze-thaw cycles that propagated numerous cracks and mini “pot-holes” in the court playing surfaces. The problem was made even worse by the fact that the original MVP courts were built on expansive soils which promoted surface cracking every year in spite of the expensive annual repairs. So with the 10-year “pickleball friendly” Parks Masterplan approved by City Council, PPPA in early 2015 proposed to the Parks & Rec Advisory Board that a 15-court post-tension concrete “50-year” low/no maintenance solution be pursed for the MVP pickleball venue. The Parks & Recreation Advisory Board unanimously approved the 15-court proposal with a planned budget of $350,000. Accordingly, PR&CS in 2015 included $100,000 in the City’s proposed 2016 budget. Jeff Norton submitted an application to the City Council Lodgers and Automobile Rental Tax (LART) Committee requesting another $25,000 in capital improvement for the upgrade which was fully supported by the Committee and also included in the City’s proposed 2016 budget.
In 2015 and 2016, the marvelous Fundraising and Grant Writing talents of Alia Rieker and Gayle Humm were unleashed. PPPA provided $81,000 from private and business donations and its cash reserves to the upgrade cause and received another $115,000 in grants from Lyda Hill Holdings and the El Pomar Foundation. This resulted in $321,000 in available 2016 funding for the upgrade.
Based on this funding response, PR&CS began the contracting process for the court upgrade of MVP. However, a soils analysis indicated that the expansive soils problem at MVP was more significant than originally understood requiring removal of the bad soil down to 3 feet across the entire 15-court footprint and replacement with road grade material to ensure a properly engineered post-tension concrete solution. The added cost of removing and replacing the bad expansive soil added significant cost to the upgrade; however, an “anonymous donor” came to the rescue to make up the difference and close the deal. Based on a competitive bids managed by PR&CS and supported by PPPA, the City awarded a separate contract for the soil removal and replacement and another contract for the technical work to install the post-tension concrete courts. The winning technical contractor, Sport Court of the Rockies, installed the post-tension concrete as well as fencing, flag pole, sidewalks, landscaping, administrative area, surface coatings, line striping and pickleball posts and nets for the 15 courts. Included in the bid price was the USAPA-recommended best practice of including a vapor barrier under the concrete slab to eliminate any subsurface moisture from wicking into the concrete during the winter freeze-thaw cycles well as adding subsurface crack mitigation technology to prevent any cracking if it were to occur from crossing into the playing surfaces of the 15 courts. The resulting final engineered MVP upgrade was completed in time to support the 2016 2nd Annual Great Plains Regional Tournament with 342 players attending from 25 States, Canada, and Mexico. This court upgrade will provide a maintenance-free world-class venue for many years to come.
A MATURE, THRIVING and DYNAMIC ORGANIZATION
PPPA issued a “2017 Accomplishments” 6 page end-of-year report, from which most of the following was extracted.
Membership As of December, 2017, there are 767 members, 60/40 female to male. The age range is 8 to 89, once again proving that pickleball is for everyone. 200 of the members are active volunteers across 26 PPPA committees. PPPA provided 11,600 volunteer hours in support of our Association and its non-profit mission. This included 4,400 volunteer hours for our 2 major PPPA-hosted tournaments in July and September.
PPPA Website One of our most significant Member-oriented achievements this last year was the new PPPA website developed and implemented by our Communications Committee under the outstanding leadership of Brian Jennison. Supported by Alia Rieker and Carol Odell, his team upgraded our PikesPeakPickleball.com site into an interactive state-of-the-art platform with functionality that allows on-line membership applications/renewals, member polling/voting, education and training activities schedule postings, member feedback forum, recognition and advertising linkage to our generous corporate sponsors, and many more helpful user-friendly features.
MVP Court Status Our PPPA Government Interface Committee, led by Marti Gasser, worked tirelessly with Parks & Rec over the summer to develop the ‘punch list’ of about 60 must-fix items in accordance with the MVP court upgrade contract requirements. These included playing surface high and low spots, line striping, and fencing noncompliance issues. In October the construction contractor completed those remaining contract close-out fixes.
Beginner Lessons were held at Wasson High School on a weekly basis throughout the summer and are designed to provide new players with two free lessons. The Beginner Lessons Committee, managed and directed by Nancy Steffy, recruited and trained 30 PPPA member instructors that provided 22 sessions of free lessons April-September.
Guided Play was held at MVP twice weekly May-September under Sherry Fairchild’s leadership. This program is designed to support newer players in further developing their PB skills including serves, returns, lobs, strategies, and overall play. Nine PPPA member instructors provided GP instruction.
Outreach Committee, chaired by Nancy Steffy, continued throughout the year to promote our Sport among senior centers, schools, and with foreign exchange students, police, fire, military and members of other civic organizations.
Round Robin Play was also held at MVP during the week to support competitive skill level play for 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0 and 4.5 skill levels.
Ladder Play, enjoyed by 83 members was another great competitive skills development success in 2017 consisting of three ladder leagues for 3.0, 3.5 and 4.0 skill level players.
Tournaments: The 2017 GPR Tournament was the biggest yet in the past three years. PPPA hosted 400 participants from 24 states, Mexico and Canada. Sherry Fairchild, tournament director, did an outstanding job running this event along with Regional Directors Steve & Ramona Boone. Starting 10 months out, over 160 PPPA volunteers helped plan and support both RMSG and GPR events. In June through August David Kennemer, the Chairperson of the Referee Management Committee, and Bob Paulsen conducted a six-week basic referee training program for 11 new referees from PPPA. They also held referee refresher training clinics for 33 of our local PPPA referees and provided orientation training for 30 line judges. Brian Jennison and Bob Paulsen took on the extensive and challenging USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) referee evaluation process in 2017 and now, along with Steve and Ramona Boone, are Nationally Certified Pickleball referees.
EXPANSION BEYOND MONUMENT VALLEY PARK: See this link for other pickleball sites, both indoors and outdoors. https://pppa.wildapricot.org/where-to-playIn November, 2017, the 4 dedicated post-tension concrete lighted PB courts at the new John Venezia Community Park were officially dedicated by Mayor Suthers and Parks & Rec with a large contingent of PPPA members present. This culminated 3 years of work by PPPA who actively supported public comment inputs for the revised Parks Masterplan in 2014 to add needed PB courts to the park development plan and funding in the City’s approved budget for Venezia. This also included PPPA’s recommendation for over-sizing one of the adjacent 6 post-tension concrete tennis courts so it can be converted into 4 additional full-size PB courts when (not if) Pickleball usage/growth demand at Venezia Park outstrips that of tennis.