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Residents Call for New Pickleball Courts Location

Wesselman Pickleball ordinance reading-4.jpg
Tim Jagielo
Resident Christopher Norrick returns to his seat after speaking at the City Council meeting Monday night. He accused the city of chasing fads, with pickleball courts and possible tournaments, and not maintaining current facilities well enough.

Ordinance sponsored by two city councilmembers drew support at first reading, residents cite noise concerns and impact on nature

Wesselman Pickleball ordinance reading-2.jpg
Tim Jagielo
Resident Barbara Deig supports using Roberts Park for an alternative Pickleball courts location. Of Wesselman Park and Woods, she said, "I don't think sports parks need to be around around it and encompassing it, because it is a place for people to go to get some peace and some quiet and enjoy nature."

Monday night’s Evansville City Council Meeting had the first reading of an ordinance that would prohibit pickleball courts from being built in most areas of Wesselman Park.

About a month ago, the parks board announced receiving five bids for the project, totaling up to $1.5 million with possible fall completion. They’re planning to build 24 courts near the tennis courts in Wesselman Park.

But if this ordinance passes next week, the city administration will have to choose another spot.

“I do not oppose pickleball courts per se,” said Susan Blankenship, during the lengthy, robust public comment session Monday night. “I oppose the location of the pickleball courts in Wesselman Park.” This was the central message of the 17 commenters.

They all spoke in favor of the ordinance which was sponsored by council members Missy Mosby and Jonathan Weaver. The ordinance named “ORDINANCE G-2023-05 An Ordinance Regulating the Use of Wesselman Park” would stop pickleball courts in Wesselman Park.

“So their voices needed to be heard,” said Mosby. “And that's what we, as elected officials are here to do. And I take my oath very seriously.”

She said the negative feedback from residents was mounting — and Weaver heard it too. In approaching the city's legal counsel, such an ordinance was drafted as a solution.

Nearby residents have several concerns. A large one is the potential noise. Pickleball is louder than tennis, and 24 courts are proposed. Another central concern is the impact on nature and a reduction in greenspace.

Several urged the consideration of Roberts park near the Lloyd Expressway, because it has an open field and the noise wouldn’t bother anyone.

“We appreciate the uniqueness of this place — of quiet green space in the middle of the city that needs to be preserved,” said Niles Rosenquist. “As plenty of you've heard about Roberts Park, build your pickleball courts down there next to that highway. They won't be bothering anybody there.”

Several commenters made this pitch. Council will vote on the ordinance on March 20th. If passed, a new location will need to be chosen.

The new city noise ordinance passed recently, and some commenters questioned how the Pickleball Courts wouldn't be in conflict with that.

When the ordinance was announced, Mayor Lloyd Winnecke released this statement:

“The administration was surprised by the ordinance, as City Council approved funding for the pickleball project in the 2023 budget (October 10, 2022) and again with the Parks Bond (November 14, 2022). We remain committed to locating new pickleball courts adjacent to the existing tennis courts.”

Wesselman Pickleball ordinance reading-1.jpg
Tim Jagielo
West-side resident Nicole Webb offers the first public comment of the evening. While she doesn't live near the park, she's concerned for noise on behalf of nearby residents, among other things.