OCEANSIDE — The growing popularity of pickleball draws international tournament players to Oceanside. It also leaves local players waiting more than 45 minutes to rotate in to play at one of the city’s eight courts. That wait time might not improve for a year or more.
The city considered converting two of the five public tennis courts at Rancho Del Oro Park to pickleball courts in December.
At the Dec. 20 City Council meeting half a dozen residents asked the city to keep the tennis courts intact. Some speakers said the wait to play tennis is an hour or more.
“Taking two tennis courts away does not affect our community positively,” Oceanside resident Barbara McCray said.
City staff then proposed converting one of the three tennis courts at John Landes Park to pickleball courts. This suggestion prompted community feedback that included requests for skateboard areas and dog parks.
The city ultimately decided to hold off on changes until the Parks and Recreation Master Plan is updated. That process could take nine months or longer.
Bob Patten, board member of the Melba Bishop Pickleball Club, said the sport of pickleball has grown by 200 percent over the past five years.
“Pickleball players would love to see more pickleball courts,” Patten said. “Twenty courts would be really good for Oceanside.”
During tournaments and organized play, a maximum of 32 players can engage in games on the city’s eight courts. Patten said most of the time 75 to 100 players participate, which leaves a lot of them waiting for court time.
“It’s a fabulous sport for exercise and socializing,” Patten said. “It’s growing by leaps and bounds.”
Patten added pickleball players are not against the sister sport of tennis. Many are former tennis players. They just want more courts so they can get in more play.
Neighborhood Services Director Margery Pierce said the master plan update will be the best way to appease residents’ diverse requests for park amenities.
“We are going to hold off making a recommendation and let the issue be vetted through the update to the parks master plan,” Pierce said.
The master plan was last updated in 1996. At that time the community requested more soccer fields, baseball fields and pools.
Megan Crooks, city Parks and Recreation management analyst, said the city is now built out. The plan update will focus on best uses of park space and preferred amenities.
“We will look more at identifying parks specific areas, and if they are meeting the needs of residents,” Crooks said.
The process to update the master plan is in its early stages. City staff is currently looking at existing park inventory.
The next step will be to collect community input on preferred park features. Public workshops, pop-up surveys and phone surveys will be used to collect feedback.
Community requests will then be weighed with available space to form an updated master plan.
Future park improvements will depend on funding.
For now, the city has 36 public tennis courts over 10 sites, and one location for public pickleball courts.
A master plan update is expected to be completed by September.