Above: The revised pickleball court plan for Academy Field presented to residents Monday night.
At a meeting with the newly established Friends of Academy Field Monday night, Town Manager Andy Nota and Community Services Director Andy Wade unveiled a revised plan for pickleball courts at Academy Field – instead of adding new freestanding pickleball courts next to the existing basketball courts, the new plan would replace one of the basketball courts with two pickleball courts.
The 35 or so residents in attendance appeared to like the new plan but some said they wished the town could have come to them earlier with the plan.
“Thank you for this meeting. It would have been a lot less stressful earlier,” said Paul McCaffery, who’s house abuts Academy Field.
The plan was unveiled last fall, when Wade applied for two Dept. of Environmental Management grants – one for new pickleball courts at Academy and one for changes at Eldredge Field. Wade needed Town Council approval before he could submit the applications since the town would be required to provide a 20 percent match for any grant awarded. It wasn’t until news that the town got both grants in May, however, that residents who live near Academy Field started asking questions.
For several residents, the proposed courts were new news – despite the grant applications having been on a Town Council agenda in December (which was reported HERE in December). They wondered why the town didn’t alert them, especially the direct abutters. Pickleball is very popular but its attendant noise has proved controversial. The sport is already being played on bring-your-own nets on the basketball courts now. Residents said they were okay with the current location. But the new courts would be closer to their homes and they were not okay with that.
When Wade originally brought the applications to the Town Council for approval, said Ed Cure, a Spring Street abutter, at the start of the meeting Monday, “there had not been any questions or discussion about the potential impact to residents, or any discussion or attempt to notify and seek input from nearby neighbors, other than the minimum required notification process associated with [a Town Council] meeting.”
Cure said he and others at the meeting “were not against change or even against pickleball,” noting that some in attendance even play the sport themselves.
After the new plan was presented, there were some questions – such as what type of barrier might be used (most likely a low fence at the ends of both courts to keep balls from going into the basketball court on one side and the street on the other) and why not build the courts at Eldredge instead (Nota said pickleball at Eldredge could happen at some point depending on recreation needs but especially with school construction plans now under discussion, he said it was best to wait until those decisions were made).
After the meeting, many residents expressed their relief the town was willing to change the plan.
When asked about alerting nearby residents earlier in the process, Wade said the turnaround time for the grant applications was tight – just shy of two months – for a process that requires a fair amount of assessment of properties and needs, hours of grant writing, and getting on a Town Council agenda. Still, he said, “I tell you, if I’m going to do anything at Academy again, I’m going to do that.”
How quickly will the new courts be built? Wade said the town had two years to complete the project. “As final plans are developed, we will be able to begin to create a timeline.”
If I read the article correctly, it stated one of the basketball courts will be removed/replaced? Is that a knee jerk reaction to neighbor concerns, or was any kind of usage study done to see how much the current courts are used? How many basketball players are going to be displaced by this?
I realize Eldredge is not far away at all… will removing one court drive users to Eldredge and stress the court space there? I suppose it’s also fine if the town wants to make one location for basketball, one for pickle ball – but I would feel a lot better knowing this isn’t just an off-the-cuff solution.
I agree-the residents behind Providence Oyster Bar were told they needed to wait 3 cycles of town meetings for any changes to be made
Good question. There was no formal usage study of the basketball courts. I live in the neighborhood and frequently walk on the field and the two courts are typically used by individuals or small groups. It is very RARE indeed to see both courts used for full-court games.
After photographing Don Bowen (retired EG high school basketball coach) and his summer camps for youth, I notice that although not used for full court games, not having one would not allow some of the around sixty children attending, to practice. These courts need work of their own and should be incorporated in the plan.
Chuck, Don’s summer games take place on the Eldredge basketball courts along Cliff Street. The pickleball courts are planned for Academy Field and under the new proposal would supplant one of the basketball courts there. That said, there is a plan for changes at the Cliff Street basketball courts – changing the orientation so they are north-south instead of the current east-west configuration.
I live directly across the street and see the courts day and in day out – I think in a year I’ve only seen both courts being used for basket ball games maybe two or three times. Usually it’s just a single person or small group shooting around. A few actual games do take place with about six people but I’ve never seen two actual games happening at once.
This is community spirit and public service at its best. Concerned citizens who love their town, a responsible non-confrontational approach, a responsive and empathetic town manager and community service director all contributed to an acceptable compromise.
I’m glad all came to a successful conclusion but let me get this straight the reason the pickleball courts aren’t being constructed at Eldredge ( I am assuming down at the bus road? At the end of the concrete stands) where the only neighbors that the noise would effect would be the cemetery residents is because there are decisions to be made about what to do with Eldredge school? Is that right? But in the meantime we are going to reconstruct the softball field and the basketball courts? Lol talk about the cart before the horse!!! Again can’t wait to see how this works out!!!
I didn’t put this in the article but I should have – one of the reasons for putting pickleball courts at Academy Field was because the Senior Center is there and there are lines on the basketball courts already for bring-your-own-net pickleball.
It took the wealth and power of the Hill residents to get the town to come up with a new plan-yet-the residents abutting Providence Oyster Bar have been told they have to wait and wait and wait-and deal with the disruption of cars and people which was once a quiet area. But those are old ranch houses-and residents whose voices are not represented. Elizabeth, I challenge you to hear their story next – and walk the neighborhood on evening or late night and help those residents with your column and relationship you have with the Town Council!
Working on that story now, KA! I’ve talked with Anna on the corner and Juan, next door. Give me a call if you’d like to tell me your story: 401-749-3115.
So so happy to hear!!! Just head over to Anna’s house every evening-then imagine those cars parked in front of your home -that’s your view-with people coming and going-walking on your lawn!! I will give you a call!!
I’m curious. Was this a public/advertised meeting with an agenda posted in advance?
Not in an official capacity because it was a meeting of the ad hoc “Friends of Academy Field,” to which officials were invited.