Alta Laguna Park tennis court to be converted for pickleball

Laguna Beach is opting to convert a tennis court at Alta Laguna Park into permanent pickleball courts.
Laguna Beach is opting to convert a tennis court at Alta Laguna Park into permanent pickleball courts. The city will also be providing for two part-time pickleball courts on a second tennis court at the facility. The court above is the one where players actually play pickleball.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

After calls from pickleball players to have the growth of the sport in the community recognized, the city of Laguna Beach will increase the number of courts on which the paddle sport can be played.

The Laguna Beach City Council unanimously approved a plan to have one of six tennis courts at Alta Laguna Park converted into permanent pickleball courts. There could be two or three pickleball courts produced from the repurposed tennis court, depending on the configuration.

“It really is in response to an overwhelming number of requests we’ve been receiving from local residents looking for additional pickleball capacity in the city because it is a very fast-growing sport, and it has a lot of residents who are participating in it,” Deputy Director of Public Works Michael Litschi said in introducing the item at Tuesday’s council meeting.

There will be $17,000 set aside from the Park in Lieu fund to cover the costs of converting the Alta Laguna courts.

The recommendation to expand pickleball capacity in Laguna Beach came via a vote of the city’s recreation committee on July 12.

Pickleball play is currently allowed at Lang Park from 8 a.m. to noon on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as from 9 a.m. to noon on Sundays.

A second tennis court at Alta Laguna Park will also have two temporary pickleball courts, the hours for which will mirror those during which the sport is permitted at Lang Park.

About 10 residents spoke at the meeting, most of whom were in favor of the expanded pickleball capacity.

“One thing I want to emphasize is that the tennis players have access to the Alta [Laguna Park] courts from 7:30 to 10 p.m., if it’s lit, so really it’s from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day of the week,” Roger Kempler, a member of the recreation committee, said. “It seems to me very arbitrary, because there are all kinds of noises in that big park, to restrict pickleball so much. It just doesn’t make sense to me.”

Some of the speakers suggested that in the interest of having pickleball and tennis played simultaneously, the permanent pickleball courts should be located on the end with the joint-use court to be the adjacent one.

The direction the courts face in relation to the sun was another concern, while others advocated for the most pickleball courts that could feasibly be fit in the space to be converted.

“It’s not like you should determine where the sun is in any given day because it does change 365 days a year,” Claudia Redfern said. “I would recommend that you optimize the space and put in three courts, not necessarily taking into consideration the sun. That’s what a visor is for.”

The consent calendar item was pulled for discussion by Mayor Pro Tem Sue Kempf, who made light of the fact she had pulled a muscle playing pickleball earlier in the day.

She found herself in agreement with the claims of many pickleball supporters, including that it is a sport accessible to people of all ages and many of those playing the sport come from a background as tennis players.

“That’s the thing about pickleball,” Kempf said. “You can be young and good, and you can be old and good. That doesn’t happen very often in sports. If you’re old, you’re usually not good.”

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