Aging tennis courts at Aspen Rec Center swatted aside for more popular pickleball |

Aging tennis courts at Aspen Rec Center swatted aside for more popular pickleball

Seven new pickleball courts are coming to Aspen

Aspen's Alex Ferreira, left, a professional halfpipe skier and two-time Olympic medalist, plays pickleball during an Aspen Education Foundation event in summer 2022 at the Aspen Recreation Center courts.
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

The invasion was already underway.

For now, four pickleball courts are scrunched into the footprint of one tennis court and they aren’t even regulation size. The current tennis courts have been commandeered for pickleball.

That will change. Soon enough, there will be seven new pickleball courts there in an attempt to slake the thirst for the sport that’s really popping. And one true, lonely tennis court at the location.

The city of Aspen Parks & Recreation Department hosted an open house on Wednesday morning to showcase the upcoming overhaul for the Iselin Pickleball Courts and Tennis Courts. See, P before the fading T.

City staff met with community members over the past year and a half to discuss the needs and future of the area. Pickleball won out, big time.  

It’s one of the fastest-growing sports in America, and the pandemic brought even more attention to the sport with its contactless play. The game combines table tennis, badminton, and tennis. Some think of it as lazy tennis or a geezer sport, but the leagues of young professionals suggest otherwise. 

Plans for the new pickleball courts and pavilion at Aspen Recreation Center on display at the open house Wednesday.
Julie Bielenberg/The Aspen Times

Aspen already has a dedicated chapter of the USA Pickleball Association, and there are other courts throughout the Roaring Fork Valley.

“The new plans have reached final permit level drawings with the final construction documentation to follow,” said Emily Ford, a communications coordinator for the city.

In addition to the new pickleball courts, and a new indoor/outdoor pavilion is planned for the center of the courts.

“Our goal was to really rethink this — how to maximize the site and how to take advantage of what’s good about the site,” said Michael Tunte, city landscape architect and construction manager.

“We have stunning views. We have trees. This area is very well-served by trails and public transit,” he said. “We incorporated a central gathering place where there’s shade structure seating; inherently pickleball and tennis are fairly social sports.”

Current pickleball and tennis courts at Aspen Recreation Center.
Julie Bielenberg/The Aspen Times

“What we’ve always seen, and what we’ve heard from the pickleball community, is they love to play the game as much as they want to see their friends and interact. It was important for us to think about a central gathering place where people can hang out, see their friends, tee up for the next game, and just get all our equipment ready,” he said.

Pickleball is not so quiet as tennis. The ball — oversized ping pong — has a popping sound when struck. It can be quite a ruckus. So much so, Denver recently removed pickleball courts from a main city park and scrapped plans to build more across town due to noise ordinances. The city of Centennial recently enacted a six-month moratorium on all new outdoor pickleball courts. 

The sound of the ball hitting the paddle in pickleball has been measured at 70 decibels in some residential locations near courts in Denver. The city ordinance only allows for 55 decibels.

At the rec center, Tunte said, “There aren’t any immediately adjacent neighbors that are close, and the site sits between a street and river. There is a berm on the sides on the back, that really helps with sound attenuation more than anything else.”

Scope of work provided by Aspen City Parks & Rec during a community open house on Wednesday.
Julie Bielenberg/The Aspen Times

In short, noise here won’t be a factor. Pickleballers can let it rip — or pop.

The timeline for completion will depend on the pace of permit processing, City Council approval, and whatever else might come up. 


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