Yup, it’s been a strange year for the world and for pickleball, and the Surrey Pickleball Club has not escaped the strangeness. First, we had to put the season on hold and then we had to cancel the season, even though as individual players, everyone was free to go out and play as individuals (and eventually as self-organizing groups).
So, will next year be better? Better from a coronavirus perspective maybe, but with new strangeness entering into the club’s operations. By next season, hopefully the coronavirus implications will be out of the way – with a vaccine available; if not, then there’s more complications – but below is what we will see impacting the Club next season, and what the Board of the Club has been discussing over these past months.
No more “pickleball preferred” time. Up until now, the City of Surrey has set aside “pickleball preferred” time on the South Surrey Recreation Centre's tennis courts. So, pickleball players have been able to play pickleball on the courts during certain hours knowing that tennis players would not be able to exercise the City of Surrey’s 30-minute rule and kick us off the courts. That is no longer the case. Starting immediately, no dual/multi purpose courts in the City will have preferred hours for pickleball. So, if you’re playing on dual/multi use courts - any Surrey dual/multi use courts - be prepared to relinquish the court. What will the Club have to do to guarantee court time for its members: reserve the courts under a City permit.
Reserved court time = costs. The Club has always had to pay to reserve the courts for special events such as the Spring Launch, the Grip & Rip and instructor clinics. The cost for each rental has been baked into the cost of the event. Starting in our 2021 playing season, with no “pickleball preferred” times, the Club will have to reserve the courts to guarantee even regular weekly play times. For that, the City will be charging the Club court rental fees. And those costs will, in one way or another, be paid by the Club’s members. We’re somewhat fortunate in that the City has prime time charges and lower non-prime time charges. Historically, most of our playing has been during non-prime time, which is subject to those lower court fees.
Prime-time play. One of the strong requests from the membership poll done in the fall of 2019 was – for those members unable to play during the day – for evening play time. Evenings are prime time for the City and so would carry higher fees than daytime play. Nonetheless, the Club is planning to schedule evening play.
Additional pickleball court inventory. Pickleball has been fortunate in the past several months that the City of Surrey has made many more facilities pickleball friendly, with Greenaway’s dedicated courts, Crescent Park resurfacing and made dual-purpose, Clayton upgrade (so there are now 7 dual/multi purpose courts) amongst others. And more to come. With the increase in decent places to play, it is expected that many players may decide to stay with drop-in or self-organized play and not join/rejoin the Club.
Self-organized play. One of the effects of the coronavirus situation has been for a lot of self-organization of pickleball playing groups. Whether it has been word-of-mouth, email groups, Sign-up Genius, or Whats-App playing groups, there has been a lot of self-organization groups arise. Some of those groups play in the morning, some in the early afternoon and some in the evenings. With that self-organization, the question arises of whether dedicated Club-organized (and structured play) time slots are necessary.
Court demand uncertainty. With all of the above, the Club is faced with huge uncertainties for next season. How will the City’s development of other pickleball courts and City court reservation fees affect the demand for Club court time? How will members react to increased costs because of court fees? What is the best way to implement those increased costs? How many members will there be in the Club? Will the members play primarily through the Club or primarily through drop-in or self-organization? Will there be sufficient prime-time demand for playing time? Etc.
SSRC courts may not be ready. If the above weren’t enough, the City has advised us that there is a reasonable possibility that some or all of the 12 dedicated pickleball courts planned for the top of the SSRC reservoir will not be ready in time for the start of our 2021 season. While we won’t have to make a decision immediately, by the late fall we will be faced with deciding if we:
- Reserve and play for at least some (all?) of the 2021 season on the SSRC tennis courts, as we have done previously
- Reserve and play (temporarily or permanently) at facility that will be available for the start of the 2021 playing season
- If we start (and end?) the season elsewhere, where should it be? Greenaway? Crescent Park? Other?
Zoom AGM. Yes, uncertainty over how many members will show up for the AGM has meant that we can’t risk contravening the size limit for gatherings imposed by BC’s public health authorities. So, this year’s AGM will be held via Zoom. It will make for a bit of awkwardness trying to manage speaking and voting, but hopefully will also mean that more members will attend.
So, the strangeness will continue into 2021, although hopefully not beyond. By the end of our 2021 season it should be much clearer what the Club’s path will be. Thanks to all our current members for sticking with the Club as the Board sort through these issues. And for past and prospective members, we look forward to having you join us for 2021.
Board of Directors, Surrey Pickleball Club