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Tennis players upset with potential City Council ordinance that would give priority to pickleball

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A new pickleball full-day priority ordinance proposed to City Council for approval this month may provide more space for pickleball players at the expense of tennis players at Mitchell Park. 

The park currently has eight courts set aside for pickleball players and two tennis courts that are striped for both pickleball and tennis games. 

However, pickleball players have priority on these two courts from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. with tennis players having priority from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

If approved, the new policy would give pickleball priority over tennis on all the courts all the time.

P.E. teacher Peter Diepenbrock said the proposed ordinance is justified because pickleball is a more popular sport than tennis in the park. 

“The fact of the matter is, if you ever go there from 3 to 10, there are always way more pickleball players, so it kind of makes sense for the city to do that,” he said.

Diepenbrock joined the Palo Alto Pickleball Club in 2018 when it was first gaining traction.

“We had maybe 300 or 400 members in the club back then,” Diepenbrock said. “And now there are 900.”

But tennis player Xiang Lu said many Palo Alto residents who play tennis at the Mitchell Park courts are frustrated with the council’s proposed policy. Before the rise of pickleball, Lu said many United States Tennis Association matches were been held at the courts. 

“We used to have a USTA team here. But they took away two of our courts, and the other two remain for coaching,” Lu said. “So we can’t even host USTA matches anymore, and it’s just a huge pain.”

Lu also said the city is at fault for the conflict because it could have just added more designated pickleball courts at the park. He also said Palo Alto could do more to support racket sports in general.

Despite the controversy, Diepenbrock said he thinks pickleball serves people of all backgrounds. 

“People show up there seven days a week, all different times during the day, and it’s all ages from all different walks of life,” Diepenbrock said. “It just keeps getting more and more popular. It’s a lot of fun to play.”

While Lu said he has nothing against pickleball or the people who play it, he hopes the city ordinance does not pass.

“It seems like it’s convenient to take the tennis courts, but I’m not so sure that’s a really good idea,” Lu said. “In that regard, I would really be against that. Pickleball is advancing and that’s good, but it cannot be at the expense of tennis.”

However, pickleball player Austen Tse, a new resident of the Mitchell Park area, said tennis coaches in the area should adapt with the market and do what is best financially for them.

“(Tennis and pickleball are) pretty similar sports, and as with any business, you should adapt to the times,” Tse said. “So, if the demand (for pickleball lessons) is much greater, it makes sense to serve the greater community if there are more people interested in it.”

Husein Khambata, an entry-level pickleball player, said whatever happens, the system should not be implemented at the Mitchell Park courts. 

Khambata said, “Just because there’s more demand (for pickleball), you can’t kick out (tennis players) who were there before.”

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Neel Sharma
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