Pickleball group seeks support for Sechelt dome

The Sunshine Coast Pickleball Association (SCPA) is making a new push for a dedicated, year-round facility in Sechelt.

In a presentation to Sechelt council’s committee of the whole on Oct. 23, Ted Bentley, a member of the SCPA’s facility development committee, said the association is hoping the district will agree to lease them a lot in the area between the Sunshine Coast Racquet Club and the arena and they’re hoping to secure a deal similar to the one the racquet club has.

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The SCPA first went to Sechelt with the idea in 2015, and in a written proposal backing up his presentation, Bentley said, “In the four years subsequent to that meeting, the justification for a year-round indoor facility has strengthened.”

Bentley pointed out that the association’s membership, supplemented by drop-in players, has grown to the point where it can generate the revenue necessary to make a pickleball facility financially self-sustaining and they expect the current membership of 230 to grow by 50 per cent in the next three years.

All that also adds up to the current facilities becoming inadequate to meet demand, especially for hosting tournaments, according to the association.

The facility the SCPA has in mind is based on a nine-court surface, with space for an entrance foyer and washrooms and covered by either an inflatable dome or a metal structure like the one at the racquet club. It would also be suitable for other activities when pickleball isn’t being played.

The inflatable dome is considered the most economical structure with an estimated cost of about $890,000. Operating costs are expected to come in at around $100,000 per year, including payments on any loans the association has to take out.

Bentley told the committee that as well as a lease on district property, the Pickleball association would like help securing grants or even some direct funding. He pointed to the example of the Regional District of North Okanagan, City of Vernon and District of Coldstream agreeing to lease land to the Vernon Pickleball Association and provide a $300,000 grant for a similar facility.

“So there’s the challenge, Sechlet and SCRD,” he said.

Committee chair, Coun. Alton Toth, noted the obvious support for the association, based on the large crowd that came out to the meeting and Mayor Darnelda Siegers referenced a meeting on dry-floor facitilies last year which drew a similar crowd.  “I’m glad you took this and ran with it,” she said.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Coun. Janice Kuester. “Any way we can support health and activity in our community for all ages is amazing and I hope we can try to move something forward here for you guys.”

The committee voted unanimously to have district staff prepare a report on the logistics of a potential lease, and what would be needed in terms of clearing and servicing the lot.

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