By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City’s plan to build seven new pickleball courts in time for the bustling summer tourism season will take the next step with the hiring of a construction contractor.
City Council is scheduled to award a $179,715 contract for the project to Ricky Slade Construction Inc. of Bridgeton, N.J., during the governing body’s meeting on Tuesday.
The project has moved ahead with the speed of a fast-paced pickleball game ever since Mayor Leonard Desiderio announced plans for the new courts late last year.
“We are very hopeful to have the new pickleball courts ready in time for use this summer season,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said in an interview Friday.
In addition to the seven new asphalt courts, the project will include new fencing, benches and trash cans.
The courts will be built on a site that currently serves as a parking lot next to Sea Isle’s Municipal Marina on 42nd Place. It is known as the “clam shell parking lot” because the surface is made up of crushed, white seashells.
Sea Isle’s capital plan for 2021 included an estimated cost of $350,000 for the pickleball courts. However, that figure was proposed before the project had gone out to bid and was considered only preliminary.
The city is building the new courts to meet heavier demand for a fast-growing sport that is particularly popular with baby boomers and senior citizens. U.S. Census figures show that the average age in Sea Isle is 63 years old, which is right in the sweet spot for pickleball players.
“It’s popular with many different age groups, but seems to be extremely popular with baby boomers and seniors, among other people,” Custer said.
Sea Isle built its first two permanent pickleball courts in 2017 on West Jersey Avenue, across the street from the city’s playground and recreation complex on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
Especially during summer mornings, demand is high for the courts at the West Jersey site.
“Pickleball has grown in popularity not only in Sea Isle, but also across the nation,” Custer said. “Sea Isle City has definitely seen an influx in pickleball players. We have received continuous requests from people who want more pickleball options.”
Pickleball seemed to be even more popular over the summer during the coronavirus pandemic because there is plenty of room on the courts for social distancing for the players.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays, Sea Isle sets aside three of the tennis courts at the Dealy Field recreation complex for pickleball. Those tennis courts are also lined for pickleball play.
The new pickleball courts expected to open this summer will be free for the public.
The sport combines elements of tennis, ping-pong and badminton. Less demanding than tennis, pickleball is a relatively low impact sport, which makes it appealing to senior citizens and baby boomers.
Pickleball is played on a 20-foot-wide and 40-foot-long court about the same size as a doubles badminton court. Players use a modified tennis-style net, wooden or graphite paddles and a lightweight, plastic ball.
The new pickleball courts will be among other recreation attractions Sea Isle is adding this year, including a nearly $1 million fishing pier and kayak launch site scheduled to open in the spring on the bayfront near 60th Street.