By Martha Ehrenfeld
Heather Knight’s column portrays San Francisco pickleball players as outsiders, neglected by a foot-dragging city government that prioritizes space for tennis players.
As a pickleballer and tennis player, this is wrong.
Yes, demand for pickleball courts has exploded during the pandemic. But so has the demand for tennis courts. Simply reserving a public tennis court online has become something of an extreme sport in San Francisco. They are often booked within minutes.
In 2018, there were only twelve courts to play pickleball in the city. Today, there are 59. That’s almost a 500 percent increase in four years—leaps and bounds above any other sport. While access for pickleball players has expanded, access for tennis players has lessened. The San Francisco Tennis Club in SoMa closed, making municipal courts critical. Despite losing courts, the tennis community was happy to see pickleball grow. It was only fair to share space.
The Tennis Coalition helped raise nearly $30 million to create the Goldman Tennis Center in Golden Gate Park. We welcomed its five dedicated pickleball courts, even though it meant less space for tennis players. We made room because we realize we are in a city of 800,000 people with widely varying recreational needs, from disc golf to basketball to tai chi. And we believe there is room for all.
That’s not been the way of the pickleball community. For example, in their quest for more dedicated courts, pickleball players have lobbied the city to convert tennis courts used by high school tennis teams, effectively barring access for the young athletes in their neighborhood. We think it’s time for RPD, the tennis community and the pickleball community to step back and engage collaboratively in a city wide planning process for the future, one which works with data, local use patterns and trends to develop a master plan for outdoor racquet sports.
The pickleball community is highly organized and effective at making its demands known. The city has spent considerable resources accommodating it. San Franciscans are passionate about pickleball and tennis. As a pickleball player myself, I can understand why. As a tennis player, I wish they were as passionate about access for other communities, even if that means sharing.
Martha Ehrenfeld is the co-chair of Tennis Coalition San Francisco and a certified PPR Pickleball Coach.
- Five Questions for…Swupnil Sahai, Co-Founder & CEO of SwingVision
- Read TCSF Co-Chair Martha Ehrenfeld’s response to Heather Knight’s Chronicle column regarding “Pickleball players fight to obtain more city courts”
- Five Questions for…Debbie Gersten, Captain of the Goldman Tennis Center’s 5.0 18+ Women’s Team
- 4th US Open Watch Party and Community Tennis Day
- First Ever TCSF Triples Fundraiser