Pickleball enthusiasts flooded the new courts at Richard T. Steed Memorial Park shortly after 10 a.m. Tuesday morning, Nov. 7, when local pickleball ambassador Marty Weinberg cut the ribbon in front of the temporary facility along with local dignitaries.
The occasion marked the start of a new era for the sport in San Clemente, which Mayor Chris Duncan dubbed the “Pickleball Capital of the World.” The eight-court facility is intended to appease both enthusiasts’ appetites for the sport, as well as residents near the former courts at San Gorgonio Park who were tired of hearing the noise of pickleballs smacking against paddles.
“I think it’s a positive move for our city,” said Gigi Harris, another pickleball ambassador. “The neighbors have their peace and quiet and we get to play pickleball, and it’s great.”
Jason Gregory, who’s played pickleball for roughly a year and a half, called the facility “beautiful and majestic and exceeding all expectations.”
“It helps bring the community together and helps people spend time outdoors, exercise,” said Gregory. “(There’s) sunshine, and the camaraderie of the game—it’s so beneficial in many ways.”
The City Council authorized the $2 million project in May, after staff sought to bring pickleball to Steed Park in the midst of the city’s efforts to construct a permanent 24-court facility.
Duncan attributed the progress on the temporary courts to the council and other city personnel’s mindset to “get (expletive) done.”
“We don’t mess around, and when we see an issue, we tackle it and we come together to make it happen,” Duncan said. “That’s what we did here, right? This doesn’t just happen on its own.”
Duncan also thanked City Manager Andy Hall, Beaches, Parks & Recreation (BPR) Department Director Samantha Wylie, the commissioners on the BPR Commission and BPR staff for their contributions.
Noting that the temporary facility is “just the start,” he also referenced the Steed Park Master Plan that includes the 24-court facility.
“These things take time, but we’re working on that as well,” Duncan said. “Over the next several months, the staff (will continue) to work on that larger facility, engaging with our community partners, engaging with the professional pickleball associations, local pickleball players and also private businesses.”
Wylie said she anticipates the city will add windscreens to the substantial fencing around the courts in roughly three weeks.
The council will discuss the master plan for San Gorgonio Park at Tuesday night’s meeting, including whether to revert the now-closed pickleball courts back to tennis. For the time being, however, residents were happy to break in the new courts Tuesday morning at Steed.
“I just am in awe,” said Buz Buster, 87. “It is a wonderful facility. I can’t wait to get going.”