Park District Needn’t Be In A Pickle Over Pickleball


An article in this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Pickleball could replace tennis courts at Park Ridge park,” Sept. 17) caught our attention, if only because the existence of something with a name as silly as “pickleball” deserved a bit of investigation.

To save you readers the trouble: Pickleball has nothing to do with pickles. You don’t eat them while playing. You don’t throw them. You don’t hit them. You don’t even tickle them.

Instead, it’s a game played with a wiffle ball, a paddle and a modified tennis net, on a badminton-sized court.

But if certain folks have their way, the four tennis courts that have been at Woodland Park for decades will be replaced by six to eight pickleball courts, assuming a big chunk of the cost is picked up by a grant from our semi-bankrupt State of Illinois.

The push for pickleball courts appears to be led by…wait for it…the Park Ridge Pickleball Club, whose 60 members reportedly overcrowd the single pickleball court in Park Ridge (wherever it’s hiding), forcing them to drive to Northfield, Wheeling and even Hoffman Estates for their pickle fix.

The removal of the Woodland tennis courts is being vigorously opposed by members of the Park Ridge Women’s Tennis Association and other local tennis players, rumored to number in the hundreds if not thousands.

The editor of this blog served on the Park Board for eight years (1997-2005), during which time the demand for tennis court time was always high. During his tenure no courts were removed, and lights were added to the courts at Hinkley Park to enable after-dark play. Based purely on admittedly anecdotal, drive-by observations, the District’s 21 outdoor courts still get plenty of use.

So rather than rip out the four tennis courts at Woodland and replace them with pickleball courts, we’ve got a better idea: Put the pickleball courts at that newest jewel in the Park District’s crown, Prospect Park, along with a couple of paddle tennis courts.

After all, the District pulled a bait-and-switch on the taxpayers when it promised them, before the April 2013 Prospect Park $13 million referendum, that the new facility would include at least two paddle tennis courts and a warming shelter. The District reneged on that promise shortly after the referendum passed once it became clear in late 2014 that the District had seriously under-budgeted the Prospect Park project and was going to fall significantly short of cash if it built all of the features it promised in order to win the taxpayers’ votes.

We suspect Supt. Ken “Snow Job” Wallace and his 7 Board Dwarfs over at School District 207 are employing a similarly crass political tactic with their  $195 million ($340 million, all-in) “trust us to replace what we intentionally neglected to maintain and/or repair over the past several years.”

But we digress.

The District – and especially current Board president Mel Thillens and member Jim O’Brien, the only two current Board members who were also on the Board for the Prospect Park paddle tennis bait-and-switch – might be able to redeem some of its credibility by finally building the paddle tennis courts and warming house as originally promised, while also adding four pickleball courts.

We would like to think that such a plan would get a ringing endorsement from economic and social class warriors like Mary Wynn Ryan, Kathy (Panattoni) Meade, Dena Lucy and Ashley Hawkes – given that the only paddle tennis courts in Park Ridge are at the Park Ridge Country Club and not generally available to non-members.

They could bill their support of the paddle tennis courts as striking a blow for all of Park Ridge’s commoners and groundlings who can’t afford a PRCC membership.

And also for our town’s tiny and oppressed pickleballer minority.

What a great dill it could be!

To read or post comments, click on title.

15 comments so far

“I don’t want a pickle, just want to ride my motorsickle.”

Pickleball for 60 people doesn’t deserve replacement of the Woodland courts. Your idea for Prospect Park is the most pickleball should get.

I know a spot on Busse that would work. There is even momentum behind making it a park. So let the Oaks vs. Pickles debate begin!!!

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Park District could pay for most/all of the paddle tennis AND pickleball courts at Prospect Park with the $1-2 million it would waste buying that Busse property. Let the Bowes and the 700 who signed their Shibley Oaks petition buy the Busse property and donate it to the Park District.

Why waste money on pickleball courts for 60 people when we could spend that money on a velodrome for the hundreds of bicyclists. Why should they have to go all the way to the Ed Rudolph Velodrome in Northbrook?

Although even you recognized that it was off-topic, I enjoyed your embedded photos that show how Supt. Wallace and the D207 Board obviously neglected basic maintenance and repairs to create the impression of imminent catastrophic failure of school systems. That they did so while banking $45 million is despicable, but I assume the D207 sheeple who don’t care how far and fast D207 education (especially at Maine South) has fallen will still vote to give these same mismanagers another $300 million.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A velodrome would be a nice addition to the Park District.

So long as the “sheeple” continue to believe Snow Job’s and the 7 Dwarfs’ self-serving insistence that they are doing a great job, that D-207’s quality of education is top-notch, and that the rankings/ratings to the contrary are bogus, those “sheeple” will keep throwing money at them – because an extra $500 a year for more D-207 mismanagement is still a lot cheaper than private/parochial school tuition, or packing up and moving to another community with higher-ranked/rated high schools.

Let’s see there’s 2 other tennis courts in town.

The South Park location and the one park north of Field School. Sorry I can’t remember its name. While I’m not saying they should or shouldn’t eliminate the Woodland PK tennis courts or this pickle ball court what’s it gonna hurt to drive to one of the others tennis courts?

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, there are a total of 21 tennis courts spread over Woodland, Hinkley, South Park, Northeast Park and Jaycee Parks. And the question isn’t driving to another court but court availability, given that there reportedly are hundreds of tennis players v. 60 pickleballers.

So the best answer is to just build the paddle tennis courts at Prospect Park and live up to the pre-referendum promise, and also build some pickleball courts there as well.

Those 60 professed pickleball players are only 0.16% of the population of Park Ridge. Can’t believe such a small interest group has gotten this much attention from the Park District.

I remember when I went through D64 schools, the pickleball unit was always the biggest “slack off” unit in P.E. class…and that’s really saying something of grade school P.E.

I say tell these pickleballers to stop begging the Park District for accommodations, and start accommodating themselves perhaps by getting a romantic interest or something constructive.

Pickleball originated on Bainbridge Island, Washington, in 1965, when some people wanted to play badminton but couldn’t find the shuttlecock. So they made up a game that’s half-baked badminton, half-baked ping pong, and half-baked paddle tennis that 60 people in Park Ridge play.

Yes, by all means, let’s tear out tennis courts and build pickleball courts because that makes no sense. And let’s buy those oak trees on Busse, too. No need to waste a little taxpayer money when you can waste a lot of it.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We suspect alcohol played a bigger role than baked goods.

Unfortunately the Park District Commissioners voted to tear out the 4 tennis courts instead of trying to even compromise by at least keeping two courts there. The response I got from the commissioner, especially Mel, was that we have the highschool courts to use. BUT after speaking with the highschools this was the response I received: NO playing during ANY school hours. NO playing while tennis team is practicing (which goes till dusk). NO playing on weekends if there are meets scheduled. Also, there is a lock on the gate which the school could not elaborate when it will be used. Also, last year there were two families asked to leave the courts by the security guard because it was PRIVATE property.

Mel stated that he voted for the destruction of the tennis courts because TWO tennis players said it was OKAY to replace with pickleball. Mind you that the tennis community thought that the courts would at first be put next to the pickle ball courts. Then we were told that the GRANT is ONLY available if there are NO Tennis courts–which proved to be a lie when GAYLE was asked about this. Then, when we were told that the meeting will be to vote on what to do–share the courts and so forth, Gayle made it sound that the commissioners were surprised at the tennis crowd reaction and that they heard it and will respond accordingly. When told that a petition will be created to show how many are against losing the courts, Gayle stated that she does not think it necessary since the commissioners heard the complaints loud and clear. So, taking it for face value, we did not start a petition drive and were duped….Shame that they take another amenity away from the Franklin neighborhood.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The meeting video is not posted so we can’t independently verify much of what you are saying, but it sounds believable enough. But don’t beat yourself up about not doing a petition drive: This sounds like a done deal where the meeting itself was just Kabuki theater.

By Not (12:47):

The irony is that both pickle and tennis groups are small special interest groups. How many PR residents actually use the tennis courts? Even if it is 5 times the number of pickle ballers that would be less than 1%.

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s our understanding – purely anecdotal, we admit – that just the members of the tennis LEAGUES in town comprise more than “5 times the number of pickle ballers”; and we know of a number of additional regular tennis players who don’t play in those leagues.

Ok. 10 times makes less than 2%. Still a small special interest group.

EDITOR’S NOTE: So your point is what, exactly? A “small special interest group” (tennis) losing courts to a much smaller “special interest group” (pickleball)? No tennis and no pickleball courts?

Since a pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, why couldn’t tennis courts double as pickleball courts?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Good question. Maybe somebody should ask Ms. Mountcastle and the 7 Park Board members.

What special interest does former Commissioner Dick Barton have in pickleball, considering his push for it on Facebook?


But the colloquy between Park Commission Cindy Grau and resident Dan Johnston re Barton’s September 14 at 1:31 PM pickleball post on the Park Ridge Concerned Homeowners Group FB page is worth reading.

Thanks for directing me to that FB page and the Grau/Johnston discussion.

Interesting how Thillens is suddenly hiding behind the Prospect Park referendum and a possible Shibley Oaks referendum, but voted to spend $8 million on a new Centennial Aquatic Center without any referendum. Has Mel finally gotten religion, or has he just mastered the politician’s art of talking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time?

Also, if he’s suddenly such a fan of referendums, why didn’t the Park District offer the Shibley Oaks owner his asking price, or at least the District’s own appraisal price ($1.5 million?), contingent on a referendum? That way the voters could decide whether they wanted a Shibley Oaks park at something more than the Park District’s lowball offer that went nowhere?

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mel is no different than most local politicians: Referendums aren’t about giving the taxpayers a vote/voice, they’re about winning. Consequently, they only support going to referendum when they believe the referendums are winners, like Prospect Park; and they won’t hold one for a likely loser such as the Centennial water park and Shibley Oaks.

My point is it is amusing to hear all the whining and gnashing of teeth over two special interest groups, a term you love to use against opponents in arguments. I mean do these tennis players or pickle ball players pay anything for using the courts?? If not does that make them freeloaders. I mean I have never once used a tennis court in PR and yet my tax dollars are used. Also ya gotta love the PD board who is going to use a state grant which also happens to come from our tax dollars.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We’ve had these tennis courts for decades without anybody beefing about how tennis players are a “special interest group” or suggesting that the courts should be taken out. And because tennis courts – like the soccer, baseball and football fields, and the skate park – do not have restricted access, there’s no practical way to charge for their use.

The fact that a bankrupt state like Illinois provides grants for recreational activities shows how stupid and/or corrupt the folks in Springfield truly are. Because they are that stupid and/or corrupt, however, we have no problem with Park Ridge getting some of that money that Springfield is hell-bent on wasting on somebody/something.

Anonymous on 09.23.18 11:10 am

Barton is a big pickleball guy, so it’s all about him.

Anonymous on 09.23.18 10:09 pm:

Does Barton have that much clout with a majority of the Park Board, or did they just roll over because more picklballers showed up at the meeting than tennis people? Was it a done deal even before the meeting?

PW, you’re a Notre Dame alum just like O’Donnell, who you endorsed in 2017. I guess O’Donnell answered the question “What would you fight for?” with “Pickleball.” Bwahahaaaaaa!

EDITOR’S NOTE: We have no idea what clout Barton may have with a Board majority, but we’re pretty sure he’d pat Mel’s head and rub his tummy if it meant getting a deciding Board vote. And we’re just as sure that Mel would trade his vote for a pat and a rub.

As for O’D, maybe he’s shooting to be the subject of one of those commercials during NBC’s telecasts of Notre Dame football games: “Jim O’Donnell…fighting to make Park Ridge, Illinois the pickleball capital of America.”

This editor has never played pickleball and no longer plays tennis, so he has no dog (pun intended) in this fight. But he’d LOVE to see Park Ridge become the national pickleball training center. Let’s see if Barton, Mel, O’D, O’Brien and Grau can pull that off!

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