If you build it, the pickle maker will come. But they are not always welcome.
Earlier this year, the New York City Parks and Recreation Department sought to stem the tide of people playing America's fastest-growing sport: some tennis, some ping pong, and all the rest. . To do so, the officers painted two areas of acid on Cpl. John A. Seravalli Playground, a one-acre park in the heart of Manhattan's West Village.
Less than a year later, park officials banned Pickleball from Seravalli after repeated confrontations between players and other park visitors, particularly parents with young children who had been coming to Seravalli for years to ride bikes, skate and throw baseballs. Seravalli Battle is just one example of acid collectors stepping up as more and more people decide to gamble and seek ever better places to do so. About 10,000 installations are registered with USA Pickleball, the sport's non-profit governing body, with an average of three new openings per day.
"A year ago, it was like the Wild West," an industry insider told the Washington Post earlier this year. "Now it's like World War III."
The acid exploded and chaos ensued
Once confined to an older community, Pickleball has thrived and shows no signs of slowing down. According to data from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association cited by NPR, the number of people playing sports reached nearly 5 million last year, nearly double from five years ago. Three professional leagues vie for dominance of players, customers and advertisers. And the community is looking for a place to create a playing field for the millions of new Pickleball players who join their ranks every day.
This includes the New York City Parks Department, which provides approximately 68 acid sites for its 8.8 million residents.
New York City Parks and Recreation CEO Mark Focht told the Washington Post, "We have seen an increase in interest in sports across the country that has resulted from the pandemic." there is no clock anywhere". after a few months."
To keep up, the department removed two field lines in Seravalli in the spring, Focht said. Though officials heard "low rumblings" of controversy during the first few months, the whispers died down in the summer as people left town for the holidays. But the clashes broke out at the end of the summer when people returned and lessons resumed.
Calling themselves "Family Unites for Outdoor Play," the parents started a petition this fall to "save New York's Seravalli Playground (aka Horatio Park) from a Pickleball takeover." Founded as a playground 60 years ago, the park has served for generations as a "vital community gathering place and the heart and soul of life for many West Village children and families," the petition states.
Then the pickle producers took over the park in a "sudden land grab," which parents said had garnered about 3,300 signatures by Wednesday morning, well short of its 5,000 goal.
The 71-year-old pickleball player has made a name for himself on public lands. He faced evil.
This sentiment led to a 90-minute meeting in Seravalli in October to discuss acid ball.
Parents pushing for a blanket acid ban complained that players dominated the space and put their children in danger if they rushed to hit foul balls. Two meals quickly became five, then 10, all but 12, the parents told committee members. Parents tried to get the players to confine themselves to the two official courts in a "stubborn game of cat and mouse," but salty players often encroached on the court. Some parents give up, she says.
“Our children go to the park, they are not welcome and they leave. It has gotten to the point where there are now frequent discussions about my children not wanting to go anymore.
Pickleballers admitted the crooked player set up an ad hoc tribunal which was described as "disgusting" at the October meeting. But a blanket ban is not the solution, they say. U.S. Pickleball Volunteer Ambassador Lydia Hirt has urged park officials to increase the number of spots at Seravalli from two to four and implement a partial ban. He suggested allowing play on the four proposed courses at all times and banning play on the other courses during peak hours: 3pm to 6pm on weekdays and 10am to 4pm on weekends .
Hirt said he often plays in the morning before work. He says there's no reason pickleball players can't go to the park to skate in the afternoon while the kids are at school.
"For me, the goal is unity," he said. “Pickleball is very inclusive, accessible and democratic. It truly is a New York City sport that truly anyone can play and participate in, regardless of shape, color, or background.
The parks department made its decision Nov. 30, when officials removed the Seravalli pickle ball by hanging a "No Acid Ball at Seravalli Games" sign over the entrance to the ballpark. The sign directs players to the three closest places to play.
The department said it has set up two camps at JJ Walker Park, a mile south of Seravalli, making sure they are full and accessible when Seravalli is relocated.
“We were able to come up with a win-win solution,” Manhattan Borough Parks Commissioner Anthony Perez told The Post.
But Hirt, who moderates an online group of more than 1,100 pickleball players in the West Village, doesn't think he and the pickers have won, and vows to continue working with officials and parents to restore Seravalli's fields. He said he believes striking a balance between no-go and free-for-all pickleball can allow players, parents and other park-goers to coexist.
Focht acknowledged that the 70 or so pickleball fields created by the department aren't enough to keep up with the sport's meteoric rise in America's largest city. He said he and his partners will continue to look for "underutilized spaces" like JJ Walker to add to the court.
“We serve 8.8 million people and have limited space, so we need to make strategic decisions to balance the needs of all our components, users and customers,” Focht said.
However, he continued, it will take some time. "Everyone wants everything where they want, right?"