Gilbert Regional Park

The new pickleball courts at the Gilbert Regional Park are a big hit and the town Parks and Recreation Board is trying to figure out what kind of fees it should charge for their use.

The Parks and Recreation Board remained conflicted last week as it looked at setting reservation fees for courts at Gilbert Regional Park.

The fees would be imposed on the 16 pickleball, six tennis, six sand volleyball and two basketball courts but the pickleball courts have generated the most opposition from players like Leslie Shaughnessy.

“I’m a hardcore player, I play every day,” she said. “What concerns me is you start reserving a large amount of the courts and it creates a division between those who can afford it and those who can’t.”

She added that the town would need to hire a ranger to monitor the courts and that it would be a “logistical nightmare.”

 Shaughnessy, however, was OK with charging leagues and tournaments. 

“If money is the issue, the tournaments hands-down will make you more money far more than you charging a small amount to rent a court,” she said.

Shaughnessy said 99.9 percent of the people who play the game at the park agree with her.

Staff has proposed setting aside eight of the 16 courts for reservations at $12 an hour to reflect the newness of the amenity and its popularity. When the courts aren’t reserved, they would be opened for free play.

Staff last week pitched another proposal: seting the reservation fee at $7, which is similar to what the town charges for its other courts, and raise it as needed.

Business Operations Manager Rocky Brown presented a comparison chart of what surrounding municipalities charge for pickleball courts. 

Some of the courts at the 16 different locations were lit and some were not. For the three that do charge a reservation fee to individuals, the cost for players was much lower than the $12 proposed for Gilbert Regional Park. 

Courts at Pecos Park charge leagues for reservations. 

Brown also presented other amenities for which the town charges a reservation fee, including 27 multi-purpose fields, 24 ball fields, four sand volleyball courts, six tennis courts and the two campsites at the Riparian Preserve.

He said in a recent survey of the 21 comments about reservations, all but one favored reservations for the courts.

Brown told the board it should consider questions such as: Should reservations be allowed? Should reservations only be allowed during certain times and for certain actives like league and tournament play and private lessons?

“I’m torn on this, one as a park for Gilbert and as a destination,” said Chair Bob Ferron, noting most communities don’t have reservation fees but in Gilbert there already are courts with fees.

 “We’re just as conflicted as you guys but we want to do it right instead of quickly,” Brown said.

Board member Paul Gonzales said fees go a long way in addressing the wear-and-tear to the courts but also acknowledged Shaughnessy’s comments.

The board tabled action until its next meeting in December, when staff is expected to return with proposed fees to reserve other amenities at the 272-acre park like the amphitheater and the group ramada.