Knight makes case for Pickleball at Monument Valley

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You might be forgiven for supposing that Councilmember Don Knight has been solely focused on efforts to expand Council’s powers (or reclaim them from Mayor Bach!), while valiantly fighting against any local public funding for the “City for Champions” proposal.

Not so! The Knight of Sorrowful Mien has been busy at work behind the scenes, trying to get the city to OK a $325,000 “investment” in – hold your breath – Pickleball courts.

He’s apparently talked several of his peers into support of lifting a third of a million from the Conservation Trust Fund reserve account to convert tennis courts in Monument Valley Park to tournament-level Pickleball courts.

Here’s an excerpt from a March 6 email that Knight sent to Mayor Steve Bach, ostensibly in response to a March 3 email from the Mayor to all councilmembers.

“I have been assisting a grassroots movement of the Pikes Peak Pickleball Club, Friends of Pikes Peak Pickleball, Pikes Peak Community Tennis Association, Colorado Sports Corporation, Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Friends of Monument Valley Park to host in our community the first-ever (and beyond) Regional Pickleball Tournament. Although this would require City Council to appropriate a one-time, and at most, $325,000 from the Conversation Trust Fund reserve, this annual event would generate over $300,000 a year.”

And we had better decide on this right now, or Arvada will steal away the fickle pickleballers, leaving us to wallow in the slough of despond.

“If we do not act before March 31, Colorado Springs will lose out on this opportunity to Arvada. More than five Councilmembers have asked that this topic be added to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board’s March 13 meeting to ensure there isn’t a better use of these reserve funds—unlike the C4C event center – funds that cannot be used for public safety, roads or bridges. Yet your Parks Director has refused to put this issue on the upcoming agenda stating that there is a process this request must go through. If C4C can be fast-tracked to meet it deadlines, why can’t the Pickleball request be fast-tracked to meet their end of March deadline?”

Those five unidentified councilmembers apparently acted without any public process, and may not have remembered that previous attempts by the pickleball folks to get public funding came to naught. Commendably, Knight will not be slowed by irrelevant legal niceties – when economic development is on the line, anything goes!

And think of the return on investment: put up $325,000, and then get $300,000 a year for life. Such a deal – Jordan Belfort himself couldn’t have come up with a better one!

Here’s the complete email chain (copied and pasted, as is).

On Feb 23, 2014, Knight to Park & Rec Director Karen Palus

Karen,

On request on Council President King, Council President Pro-Tem Bennett, and Councilmembers Miller, Pico and myself, please ensure that the Pickle Ball folks have 30 mins on March’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Board agenda.

Knight to Park & Rec Board Chair, same date

It is late Sunday night but this upcoming week is a killer, so I wanted to at least send you this quick background.

At your March meeting, I would like to I give a short introduction to re-state what I said at my last appearance. If we as a City decide not to fund turning the tennis courts at Monument Valley Park into tournament quality Pickle Ball courts, it should be a conscious decision and not just because we missed the boat waiting for the Master Plan to complete. I’ll would like to then turn it over to the Pickle Ball folks to bring the Board up to date on their latest efforts. At our March 24th Work Session meeting, Council would like to hear the Board’s recommendation.

Steve Bach to members of Council, March 3

Members of City Council, please take a look at the attached report from the US Department of Labor regarding our area’s jobs performance over the past 13 years.

No net increase in jobs in 13 years, and we have traded down from higher paying manufacturing positions to sectors which are lower paying, limiting opportunities for our young people.

I’m told that our population is up about 100,000 people (who need services). Many of them are retired, and they may not buy as many goods subject to sales tax upon which we depend.

Stunning news, but true. Frankly, it is urgent that we rebuild a vibrant economy with stable, well paying jobs to compliment our growing attraction to retirees. There is no time to waste.

A renaissance at our Airport, UCH (including a branch medical campus and new children’s hospital), and C4C are three (3) immediate economic drivers which can launch us forward.

Knight to Bach, March 6

Steve,

First know that I am fully behind Chancellor Shockley-Zalabak’s portion of C4C as she will be generating high-paying, career-building jobs that will both grow our economy and attract young people. And while I might not believe in, I will not oppose any of the other venues that require no other public funding than the state RTA dollars; even though these will mostly create temporary, minimum-wage jobs.

With respect to your question “If not C4C, then what to drive our economy”, I believe we answered this in last week’s North Nevada/UCCS task force report. Redeveloping the area just north of Fillmore and Nevada with an office park to complement the research and degree programs of UCCS, CC and CTU allows us to grow the same caliber of jobs Chancellor Shockley-Zalabak’s vision will spawn.

Paraphrasing Bob Cutter’s statement to this very issue – we cannot just look at the stagnate number of jobs in our City over the last 13 years, we must also look at the massive move from tax producing jobs to tax-funded jobs. And for this reason, I was dismayed when you could not find a program manager to move our North Nevada recommendations forward for lack of time on Bob Cope’s schedule due to his working C4C full-time.

In addition to revitalizing North Nevada, I have been assisting a grassroots movement of the Pikes Peak Pickleball Club, Friends of Pikes Peak Pickleball, Pikes Peak Community Tennis Association, Colorado Sports Corporation, Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Friends of Monument Valley Park to host in our community the first-ever (and beyond) Regional Pickleball Tournament. Although this would require City Council to appropriate a one-time, and at most, $325,000 from the Conversation Trust Fund reserve, this annual event would generate over $300,000 a year.

If we do not act before March 31, Colorado Springs will lose out on this opportunity to Arvada. More than five Councilmembers have asked that this topic be added to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board’s March 13 meeting to ensure there isn’t a better use of these reserve funds—unlike the C4C event center – funds that cannot be used for public safety, roads or bridges. Yet your Parks Director has refused to put this issue on the upcoming agenda stating that there is a process this request must go through. If C4C can be fast-tracked to meet it deadlines, why can’t the Pickleball request be fast-tracked to meet their end of March deadline?

So again answering “If not C4C then what?” Either of the aforementioned projects would help drive this economy and should also serve as a guidepost for where we must exert our maximum collective energy.

 

10 Responses to Knight makes case for Pickleball at Monument Valley

  1. I really kinda like this idea. And if we have a lock in on a national event every year for a really niche sport like this, why not? Have to admit, at first glance it seemed ridiculous….but after seeing what it can net us each year and it’s unique (I’ve never heard of it before now). Well let’s do it.

    We already have cool things like a Velodrome (only 5 in the country by the way), #1 public skate park, talks of bringing back “traditional” lawn sports to Acacia park (Bocee ball, Croquet, etc…), a private Squash club up off 8th street, bike polo tournaments, and now possibly PickleBall? Sure….why not?

    It’s corny, but I love it. It’ll pay for itself in spades, it’s hard to be against.

    Jon Severson
    March 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm

  2. Pickleball? I don’t know what the hell that is and I suspect a lot of other people don’t either. Is this all they have got at City Council? God help us.

    Steven Shepard
    March 11, 2014 at 11:39 am

  3. Another story of how our Council members cannot set goals to seriously stimulate the economy and put people back to work. There is a need for Mr. Knight to examine the community priorities. Mayor Bach mentions manufacturing and this is what many of our area economist have recommended for several years now. No matter how one feels about the C4C, it will help with jobs in our area. This Pickleball event is a “one shot” a year deal and will not provide permanent employment for any of our unemployed citizens.

    Mike Garner
    March 11, 2014 at 12:02 pm

  4. Many folks may not have heard of Pickleball; however, it is the fastest growing sport in America with well over a hundred thousand people now playing in the US and Canada and now even in Europe and Asia. There was a recent news article in the Gazette about the growth of the sport across Colorado and even a CBS Morning Show recently showing off the sport at the 108 Pickleball courts down at the Villages in Florida (see youtube link below). This aerobic sport (like playing ping-pong on a tennis court) is ideal for 8 to 80 year olds, is being taught in middle and high school athletic programs across the US, and is a natural exit sport for retirees with less mobility graduating out of tennis and racketball but still applying racket skills and strategy to a very social game.
    Colorado Springs has a club with 190 local men and women players age 17 to 86 who have been exclusively using 5 dual use courts at Monument Valley Park for the last 4-5 years or so. Started with 32 players back then and now last year they taught over 200 free lessons at Monument Valley. The Pikes Peak Pickleball Club was the first nationally-registered club in Colorado and is part of the Great Plains Pickleball Region of 7 States and 2 Canadian Provinces. The club organized and ran a nationally-sanctioned, registration-limited tournament here in Colorado Springs last September on the courts at Monument Valley Park and drew 145 players from 13 states and even Mexico—including California, Alaska, New York, and Florida and generated $99,000 in economic benefit for the local economy. The visiting players included 5 nationally ranked men and women, including one that is an 8-time National champion. Why? Many retired folks in their 50’s and 60’s who are now independent and mobile, and will travel and will spend money to attend a tournament in a vacation destination like Colorado Springs.
    And that is the point that Councilman Knight was making to the Mayor’s office—Pickleball and the potential economic benefit it could bring to our area scales directly with the number of dedicated courts available to host a major tournament like the annual Great Plains Regional scheduled to debut in 2015. The Pickleball club limited registration last September because of the small number of courts available and literally turned people away who would have otherwise traveled to CoS. The current court footprint at Monument Valley could provide 13 world-class Pickleball courts. Knight is spot on: hosting two major tournaments alone with such an added court capacity pays for the cost of converting those courts—and then continued added economic benefit for our area every year thereafter.
    That’s the kind of ROI this city needs and to quote Mayor Bach at the kick-off meeting for the City of Champions a couple months ago “Projects must be self-sustaining for the long-term”—and that folks is exactly the opportunity that Councilman Knight and other members of City Council were trying to get, a timely review and a fully informed yes-no recommendation from the Parks & Rec Advisory Board on the Monument Valley court conversion proposal. Given their apparent reluctance to even entertain this discussion, by default Arvada instead of Colorado Springs stands to secure the economic benefits from the inaugural Great Plains Regional Pickleball tournament planned for next year, and likely every year thereafter.

    Jeff Norton
    March 11, 2014 at 1:27 pm

  5. saw this article and the gazette one about the airport non tax zone..

    all these were given as examples that they are focusing on economic development for the first time…

    a joke!

    we have not created any new jobs in the last 10 years and the quality of jobs has declined from high paying manufacturing to service and retail jobs which pay less..

    What we need in out city is a new approach to how we can stop this decline and move forward as our neighbors north of us have been doing… this becomes even more urgent with the budget cuts looming for defense.

    So what to do? Here are some ideas
    1. build upon current strength and invest to grow it further (Sports, outdoors, pikes peak)
    2. Work closer with Pueblo to attract larger firms with a manufacturing base (pueblo is better suited for manufacturing of larger items due to more rail links)
    3. City Council and city please look at all regulations and look which ones you can terminate or make more business friendly
    4. brainstorming sessions sessions in how we can make our city more attractive to younger people
    5. leverage CC, UCCS and other higher education institutions
    6. Invest into the 21st century (high speed internet see chatanooga in Tennessee)

    peter miller
    March 11, 2014 at 8:30 pm

  6. As one of the 80+ aged citizens enjoying this wonderful sport, I found Mr. Hazlehurst’s article disturbingly cynical, and suspiciously biased. I suspect he has not played it or experienced the enthusiasm we players enjoy from this year-round outdoor game. Thanks to Pickleball and preparatory exercise classes, I find myself in the best physical shape since the Army drafted me during the Korean War.

    Mr. Jeff Norton’s comments above echo my sentiments exactly. This proposal is a self-sustaining project, and has the full support of 5 leading city sports organizations. After months of background work and several disappointing delays, Jeff was assured a 30 minute slot in this week’s Council meeting in order to convince Council to vote in favor of converting the Monument Valley courts to dedicated, tournament-level Pickleball courts. And now unexplainably, this opportunity has been reduced to a 5 minute period where no Council voting will be possible.

    Sad!

    Bob Holman
    March 11, 2014 at 10:20 pm

  7. I’ve been in Colorado Springs for 2 ½ years now and continue to be amazed by the dysfunction of our government. It’s no wonder that there is no economic growth in our community … it seems that all levels of our Government are more interested in fighting for control then doing the right thing for our community. This is a small issue that won’t solve our economic problems, but has a great ROI for Colorado Springs and one would think could be moved forward quickly; but apparently our Parks Director, would rather focus on control and bureaucracy then what’s best for Colorado Springs.

    Thanks to Councilmember Don Knight for getting it right on this issue and focusing on how to move forward, rather than why we can’t move forward. If we could only get a critical mass of our elected officials and appointed staff to work together and bring this kind of energy to all of our problems, then our city would not be in the malaise that currently exists…

    Alan R Strass
    March 12, 2014 at 4:22 am

  8. Before rushing to deningrate the efforts of Councilman Knight to assist a large and growing local community of players of the Sport of Pickleball, John Hazelhurst could have researched this very real Sport and found out actual facts, including the health and social benefits for players of all ages. Check out USAPA.ORG to learn what the Sport is and how participation is exploding in the USA. Better yet, come down to Monument Valley to meet the people and learn about the sport – we shovel snow and ice off the courts and play all winter! If our City steps up to secure a leadership role in Colorado for the Sport with the courts that Councilman Knight proposes it will benefit all of us economically. If we can secure Host City for the Great Plains Regional Tournament it will also fit well with the Mayor’s vision of C4C. In addition, it will contribute to quality of life for our citizens for years to come.

    John Boone, Director Great Plains, USA Pickleball Association
    March 12, 2014 at 7:20 am

  9. Pickleball has been a lifesaver for me. After a serious operation in early 2011, and a 30-day stay in hospitals and rehab, I returned to the courts determined to regain my fitness at age 71. The exercise, aerobics and great senior sportsmen & women encouraged me to return to my healthy status. I am on our Board of Directors now, volunteering at our tournaments and encouraging all my friends to enter the sport of pickleball. Colorado Springs has an excellent opportunity–right now–to attract many visitors and participants to Monument Valley over the next few years. I hope the City supports the facilities improvement and the many pickleball players who will come to the Springs.

    Charlie Rush
    March 12, 2014 at 9:22 pm

  10. I have served as the President of the Pikes Peak Pickleball Club for the past 2 years. I also teach free beginner lessons throughout the summer at MVP. Last summer we averaged 20 new students every week. Please, before you bash this fantastic new sport come to the courts and see what we are all so eager to share with our community. We welcome all ages and we love to teach our game.

    Nancy Steffy
    March 13, 2014 at 10:02 pm