The Parks Board is holding a public hearing Thursday evening to get feedback about a proposal to open low-use tennis courts to non-tennis activities, such as bike polo and dodge ball. Currently, these activities are not technically allowed (though they clearly continue). The proposal would create a process for groups to obtain permits to use the courts for alternative purposes. A parks memo outlines the proposed process:
1. Non tennis user group approaches parks requesting permission for an alternative use,
2. Staff determination that courts meet definition of low use and suitability for alternative use,
3. Parks post a sign at the facility or a mailing to surrounding neighbors identifying the proposed change to the courts,
4. Allow 30 days for comments,
5. Review of comments and decision made by the Superintendent, and
6. Implement an evaluation process to determine effects of change of use.
As Capitol Hill Seattle reports, there was a pilot program in 2008 to try out alternative court uses, but it was decided at that time to keep the courts tennis-only. In the meantime, bike polo and dodge ball continued anyway.
In fact, since 2008, hardcourt bike polo has grown in popularity worldwide, and the sport calls Seattle its hometown. Just look at this map of hardcourt bike polo clubs around the world. 2009 saw the birth of the North American, European and World Championship tournaments (with Seattle teams consistently at the top).
Seeing Seattle Parks make steps towards sanctioning these activities (which are VERY popular among spectators, too) is encouraging. It would be cool if the tennis courts could just be changed into “courts.” No need to declare a “proper” use of them, as far as I see it. Maybe there could be some scheduled tennis-only time or something for those tennis players who feel bullied out of the space. But an honest process to allow for multiple uses of the space is a positive step forward in healing the sometimes rocky relationship between some tennis players and players of these other court activities.
Really, a tennis court is just public space, and the public seems to be incredibly interested and attracted to these other uses. “Sorry tennis players, but 150+ people want to play/watch dodge ball right now.” Whenever large groups of a city’s citizens want to engage in a wholesome, athletic activity in a safe, well-lit public space, the city’s leaders should encourage the behavior. Especially when that wholesome activity gives our underage citizens something to do, since Washington liquor laws make it so difficult to have all-ages events (but that’s another post).
Anyway, show up to the hearing and voice your opinion. The Parks Board is a citizen advisory group that will give a recommendation to the acting Parks Superintendent. Your comments will likely go far in influencing their recommendation.
- What: Public hearing
- When: 7 p.m., Thursday, September 23
- Where: Parks Headquarters, 100 Dexter Avenue North
- Comments can also be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org through October 26.