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New pickleball venue indefinitely on hold in South Cariboo

Plans for pickleball courts in 100 Mile House appear to have been put on hold indefinitely following a meeting of the South Cariboo Joint Committee on Monday (Aug. 14).
Lorne Landry returns a serve during a game of pickleball at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Plans for pickleball courts in 100 Mile House appear to have been put on hold indefinitely following a meeting of the South Cariboo Joint Committee on Monday (Aug. 14).

A delegation from the South Cariboo Pickleball Association (SCPA) was on hand to present a proposal for an indoor year-round facility after plans to build pickleball courts in Centennial Park were scrapped earlier this year.

SCPA president Bob Hansen and secretary Larry Davis made the presentation on behalf of the association, citing numerous reasons for having an indoor facility. Such a facility would allow for year-round play and open the door to pickleball tournaments that would draw people from across the province to 100 Mile House. It would also serve as an incentive for professionals looking to move to the area.

“How did we get to here, where we are right now? There were courts planned for Centennial Park as we all know. And I think the main reason why they failed was a lack of meaningful consultation,” said Davis. “Between the time that we presented to the joint committee (in April 2022) and when it was announced in January of this year, there was no contact with our executive, no questions asked. Even when we finally found out about it it took several weeks to actually get a meeting.”

He noted that when they reviewed the plans they identified potential problems, including the potential for noise complaints from residents, the reason that ultimately sank the project. Going forward they hoped to avoid such problems by working with the joint committee in the planning stages.

Part of the proposal package included two facility layouts and estimated costs. Material and construction costs came in at $1.1 million for a 90’x170’x20’ (8 courts) laminated post-frame building while option two was $963,000 for a 70’x180’x20’ (6 courts) building. Miscellaneous costs such as hooking up to local services like sewer and water were not included in the estimates.

Hansen noted that as a non-profit organization, they are eligible to apply for grants and the construction of pickleball venues is generally viewed in a favourable light. This is in addition to the $230,000 funding already in place for building the courts in Centennial Park.

The joint committee has shown itself to be in favour of having some sort of a facility for pickleball to be played. At a previous meeting, the joint committee discussed a combination facility that would accommodate pickleball in the summer months and could be used as an outdoor skating rink in winter.

However, there were significant concerns expressed around the proposal, including the availability of space at the South Cariboo Rec Centre to put any type of building on and costs around the construction and operation of the facility.

“One of my big questions would have been obviously fundraising. We talk about a million dollars, where does that come from,” said District of 100 Mile House Mayor Maureen Pinkney. “Space is one of our big things over at the facility. We already have other people looking for that space too. So it’s a matter of getting it all put together and how it fits.”

She noted that in terms of the Centennial Park project, with the tennis courts needing resurfacing it had seemed like a good interim solution to turn them into pickleball courts, acknowledging they should have done more research on the noise issue.

Al Richmond, director of area G also had concerns. “If it is going to be available at the rec site we need to do a proper plan about how it’s going to fit there. The worse thing we could do is put a building of this size in somewhere and find out later it’s in the way. And I think that is a challenge.”

One of the biggest struggles is the number of people who do not want to pay for recreation. The people within the taxation area pay but beyond that, they don’t. How do they ask a limited group of people to pay more for everyone. He challenged the association to figure out how to deal with expanding the recreation boundaries, and who pays for it.

“We’ve wrestled this for way too many years and just don’t feel we want to spend $50,000 on a referendum that might fail,” said Richmond. Hansen responded by saying it was the joint committee who put the idea of the indoor facility in the association’s head after receiving an email from Roy Scott about the combination skating rink/pickleball court.

Pinkney said after the park courts fell through they already knew they were working towards a “not official on the ground yet,” but working towards the possibility of an outdoor skate park that could be used as both, she said.

“One in the summer and one in the winter. So it’s a dual-purpose facility and when you have limited room, maybe that would work. We thought an outdoor court is what you were looking for, and then we thought we can incorporate it, it’ll be roofed and everything so maybe that would work,” she said. “And that’s still not saying it’s going to happen because we have not both got the funding dollars put aside or the space agreed upon.”

Part of the problem is the South Cariboo Rec Centre site plan has not been updated since 2012. CRD chair and area H director Margo Wagner said they need to have a serious conversation about doing an updated recreation plan. “We are very limited over at the arena. We’ve already had presentations over the years…from the pool people, from the outdoor rink, now pickleball,” she said. “There’s obviously a lot of interest in having new facilities and new services brought in but we have a very limited space over there.”

Wagner suggested that before going any further, the joint committee needs to sit and decide where they want recreation to go in 100 Mile and the kind of facilities they may need to look at expanding in order to accommodate some of the requests they are getting. “I honestly don’t think the way things stand with the buildings that are currently over on the arena ground, I don’t think there’s enough room.”

Pinkney said their commitment to the SCPA is to move forward in updating the recreation plan and keep the communication lines open.

Association president Bob Hansen, who expressed an interest in the organization working alongside the joint committee to work through the issues involved in constructing new pickleball courts, expressed his disappointment in the outcome of the meeting.

“In my mind, it wasn’t what we had obviously hoped for,” he said. “My observation was we went in there hoping to be involved in discussions of an inside facility, as opposed to a supposed outside combination facility that they were proposing, and my feeling was they weren’t proposing anything.”

He said the joint committee did not come back and counter with plans of what their facility was going to look like. There was no design or facility to be presented. In fact, there were suggestions that there might not even be room for a facility at the South Cariboo Rec Centre.

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Fiona Grisswell

About the Author: Fiona Grisswell

I graduated from the Writing and New Media Program at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George in 2004.
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