Reedley’s pickleball pickle scores a solution

Sierra Kings Health Care District approves grant paying for city staff to be onsite at KCUSD, Reedley College courts during public hours

Chinayera Black Black-Hardaman, CEO of Sierra Kings Health Care District, presents board members with information regarding an ROP Grant for local Farm Laborers. (Kenny Goodman)
Chinayera Black Black-Hardaman, CEO of Sierra Kings Health Care District, presents board members with information regarding an ROP Grant for local Farm Laborers. (Kenny Goodman)
Darren Fraser
Published March 1, 2024  • 
10:00 am

REEDLEY – Reedley pickleball players will soon have more opportunities to indulge their short-court passion now that the Sierra Kings Health Care District (SKHCD) approved a grant, which will pay for city staff to be onsite at Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD) and Reedley College pickleball courts during off hours and when the courts are otherwise not in use.

At the Feb. 27 SKHCD board meeting, the board approved a $18,000 grant that will cover costs for fiscal year 2024-2025. Reedley City Manager Nicole Zieba said the city would enter into the same type of agreement it now has with KCUSD regarding the use of its pool, which requires city staff to be present during public hours.

SKHCD CEO Chinayera Black-Hardaman said the pickleball proposal aligns with the District’s three strategic priorities – eat fresh, get active, check in.

“It’s about getting outside and getting fresh air, getting active. The camaraderie that’s gained through playing with peers. This program is definitely consistent with your intentions,” Black-Hardaman said. She added that the money would come from the District’s special initiatives project funds.

BIG PLANS FOR SHORT COURTS

Zieba said the city’s planning for public pickleball courts began a few years ago.

“I knew nothing about pickleball until interested community members came through the door of city hall and said they would like to see this as a community asset,” she said.

She said the project occurred earlier than planned. The city was planning to tackle the issue in the next fiscal year.

“We were scraping some dollars together and that’s when Chinayera, who has been working with us for the past couple of years on a longer term pickleball outcome, said maybe we approach your board about helping us pay for those staff hours and maintenance so that we could open it now,” Zieba said.

Public pickleball players’ access to courts is currently limited. Reedley High School and Reedley College have courts, but students get priority. Zieba said the community center has indoor courts, but hours are precious and few.

“The timeframe when we can do that is extremely limited,” she said. “The center is fully booked out. We’re once a week for an hour or two. We have used duct tape to mark the pickleball courts on the floor.”

But bigger plans are in the works. Reedley City Council allocated $2.2 million for soccer fields at the Sports Park. She said the city also received a $350,000 grant from the state.

“We call this the ‘north phase soccer fields’,” Zieba said. She said the goal is to have the soccer fields open by this summer.

The next phase of the park improvement project will include building permanent pickleball courts. But Zieba said in the meantime, the city is considering erecting temporary, basic courts.

“The next step in our projects for the sports park would be to see if we could have our own staff create some pickleball courts out there,” she said.

Zieba said the courts wouldn’t be anything fancy, but would be something the city could have out there for the public. It would at least supply more access than the limited hours that are currently available at the community center, she noted.

SKHCD board member Bruce Hunter questioned the wisdom of building permanent courts if pickleball turns out to be a fad.

“Our city council asked that very same question,” answered Zieba. “Our staff did some research on pickleball. It is the fastest growing sport in the country and internationally. There are tournaments and competitions. It does not appear the sport will end anytime soon. The age range that can play this game is from very young to very old. It doesn’t take a lot of physical agility to play this game. We’re sure it’s a solid investment for the community.”

Board member Jim Fixel added that despite the recent popularity of the sport, it has been in existence since 1965.

City staff will be present onsite when the public has access to the courts.

Darren Fraser
Reporter