Butch Schapson talks to the Warsaw Parks and Recreation Board about the pickleball and tennis courts at Kelly Park. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Butch Schapson talks to the Warsaw Parks and Recreation Board about the pickleball and tennis courts at Kelly Park. Photo by David Slone, Times-Union.
Pickleball has grown so much over the years that municipalities are building and dedicating courts to the game.

At the Warsaw Parks and Recreation Board meeting Tuesday, board members heard a request from local pickleball enthusiasts to use the tennis courts at Kelly Park for more pickleball games. In 2019, four pickleball courts were opened to the public at Kelly Park, but that’s apparently not enough.

The board voted to table the matter to its Aug. 18 meeting for further information gathering.

Butch Schapson, 68, representing the 150-member pickleball club Pickleball

Fanatics, said the pickleball courts at Kelly Park are a great facility. “We really appreciate what you’ve done. It’s a wonderful facility, but we’ve grown so much with the popularity of pickleball over the United States ... we have a request that we’d like to talk to you about, and then also I’d like to talk to you a little bit about your five-year plans as far as pickleball.”

The Fanatics meet Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at Kelly Park with about 30 to 43 people wanting to play. Most of the players are “older,” he said, that take care of things.

He first requested the possibility of a gravel sidewalk from the pavilion to the side entrance of the courts.

The second request was “we’d like to have the opportunity and your permission if at all possible to put temporary lines on the tennis courts. We’ve never seen anyone on them. We’d like to put temporary lines on it,” Schapson said.

Last year, he said they had temporary lines at the Warsaw Community High School tennis courts, but they took them off after the season and you “can’t even tell” they were there.

Schapson said there’d be no expense to the city and the club would take the temporary lines  off the tennis courts at the end of the pickleball season. The nets are portable and wouldn’t remain up.

“You can get four additional pickleball courts in a tennis court,” he said.

He said the tape they’d use to mark the tennis courts for pickleball would be obvious what the lines were for.

“The tennis player that goes there and wants to play – and we would yield to the tennis players, we’ve never seen any, but we would yield to them – it takes three minutes to take the net down, it’s not a big deal. But, when we have those days when we have 35, 40 people there, that’s a lot of people. Some people leave because it’s a long wait between games,” Schapson said.

He said he’s never seen a park get used as much as when it’s pickleball day.

On the Parks Department’s five-year master plan, Schapson suggested that they make one place for pickleball and have 12 to 16 courts for it.

“The reason I say that is, pickleball players like to play together. We’re old people, and it brings competition back to our lives,” he said.

With one location for pickleball, he said they could have tournaments that could bring in hundreds of people and be a benefit to the community financially.

Parks Superintendent Larry Plummer said there used to be a group that came out to Kelly Park “religiously” to play tennis.

Maintenance Director Shaun Gardner told Schapson, “I’ve actually spoke to a couple of them and they said that you guys have such a big crowd out there that sometimes they don’t want to be there at the same time. That’s probably why you don’t see them out there.”

Larry Ladd, board member, said he’s played tennis at Kelly Park before. He wondered if people came out there to play tennis but then saw all the pickleball players, would they get discouraged from using the tennis courts.

“Well, then, also you guys also have a huge following and basically the parking lot is full on the days that they’re there. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing on you guys, but I know some of the tennis players who no longer come out there and that’s part of the reason,” Gardner also told Schapson.

Schapson said he always thought a park is to be used, and Kelly Park is being used by older folks. He also noted the new playground out there also is being well used by kids and all the pickleball players don’t discourage them from being out there.

After further discussion, Ladd made a motion to table the discussion to the August meeting, and his motion was unanimously approved.

Later in the meeting, Plummer told the board the concept for Kelly Park wasn’t to be all pickleball. He’s glad that opportunity is out there, but “our long-term plans for that park” include Friday night concerts, revitalization of the fishing park and other amenities.