Rec and Parks Commission Provides Pickleball Pilot Update

The latest Recreation and Parks Commission meeting included an update on the Beverly Hills pickleball pilot program, with city staff saying the dedication of several local tennis courts into pickleball courts has led to high usage and consistent revenue.

Since Jan. 2023, nearly 5,000 pickleball reservations at Beverly Hills facilities have generated more than $75,000 in revenue for the city. On weekdays, the cost to play pickleball is $8.50 for residents and $12 for non-residents. On evenings and weekends, the cost is $9.50 for residents and $13 for non-residents.

The revenue from pickleball is comparable to the funds generated from tennis reservations, which, since January, generated approximately $101,000 for the city, according to Matthew Brown, the city’s recreation services manager.

“The figures are pretty comparable when you look at how many people are playing tennis versus how many are playing pickleball,” Brown said during the May 23 Recreation and Parks meeting. “I think it’s fair to say tennis and pickleball, in terms of popularity, are pretty similar, and they both occupy the space in about the same way… Pickleball continues to trend up and up.”

Presenting the pickleball pilot update, Brown also discussed the challenge of securing reservations due to the game’s exploding popularity as well as the possibility of identifying permanent pickleball courts.

“We are finding when they are booked and during heavy usage periods, two out of four, three out of four, often four out of four [pickleball courts] on one tennis court are being used, and the demand continues to increase,” Brown said. “We are not at the point yet where we have too many pickleball courts. We’re in the opposite position.”

Recreation and Parks Commissioner Amie Sherry is taking weekly pickleball lessons at Roxbury and calls herself “pickleball commissioner.” During the meeting, she asked Brown whether the city’s pickleball courts will eventually be striped for permanent use.

Because the pickleball program is still in its pilot phase, courts are currently painted on top of existing tennis courts, with two pickleball courts drawn on each side of the tennis net.

The city is considering finding space for permanent courts, according to Commission Vice Chair Susan Mishler. Possibilities include underutilized areas of Roxbury Park and the city’s dog park property, which, as it’s underused, could be repurposed, Mishler said.

Additionally, the La Cienega Park Master Plan could include the development of indoor pickleball courts, Patty Acuna, assistant director of community services, said.

Recreation and Parks Commissioner Julian Javor, however, suggested the city continue examining usage of the city pickleball courts before undertaking any expansion of the pilot program.

“I hope we can start to advertise more about Beverly Hills embracing the pickleball sport and how active the pickleball community is here and see if that yields any additional usage,” he said.

Currently, Beverly Hills’ pickleball pilot follows a reservation-only model. Drop-in play is not available. And based on staff remarks, securing a pickleball reservation is about as easy as getting Taylor Swift concert tickets.

“For non-residents, it’s near impossible to get a reservation during the peak windows,” Brown said. “For residents, it’s very competitive.”

Pickleball, one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, is a paddle sport combining elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. The pandemic saw the social distance-friendly game growing in popularity, drawing those looking for a low-impact fitness activity that could be done while safely adhering to COVID-19 policies.

Beverly Hills has dedicated tennis courts for pickleball usage since early-2020. The pilot was launched in Jan. 2020. La Cienega Tennis Center has dedicated two tennis courts for pickleball play. Roxbury Park has one tennis court assigned to pickleball play. For Myra Demeter, it’s become an everyday activity. Before the pandemic, the city’s Planning Commission Chair transitioned out of a long day of city business by attending dance classes at her local studio. When the lockdown made that impossible, friends recommended she give pickleball a try.

At first hesitant, she went from playing three times a week to becoming a daily player.
“Once I started playing pickleball, I just fell in love,” Demeter told the Courier. “It provided for me the same escapism I got from dancing. I call it my ‘mindfulness hour.’ I play for the joy of playing. I’m in the moment. It provides me with a mental and a physical outlet that also involves a social element.”

The game’s simple rules, which are available on the Beverly Hills city website, make it easy to pick up. And when Demeter’s on the court, the typically mild-manner commissioner becomes a more outspoken version of herself.

“On the pickleball court,” Demeter said, “I have a sailor’s mouth.”

Other locals with a proclivity for pickleball include Andy Licht, a film and television producer who previously ran for City Council and is a former Planning Commission Chair. Licht calls himself, “the father of pickleball in Beverly Hills. In a phone interview, he said he raised the idea of dedicating city courts to pickleball before the Recreations and Parks Commission as a non-agendized item in the summer of 2019. At the time, little was known about the obscure game with the funny name.

“Five out of five commissioners said, ‘What’s pickleball?’” Licht recalled to the Courier.

Since then, much has changed. People of all ages in the city are embracing the sport enthusiastically. Licht, for his part, is hoping to seize on that enthusiasm with a forthcoming business venture. The Beverly Hills resident is planning to open a private pickleball club in the city. It’s called the Beverly Hills Pickleball Club. He and his partners have identified a site for the club and trademarked the name.

As of press time, Licht wasn’t prepared to share where the site of the club will be.