Sidney council tasked staff to investigate placing dedicated pickleball courts in Rotary Park, a facility on Victoria International Airport lands used for baseball and softball.
A motion was passed at the Nov. 22 meeting to postpone community consultation and design for pickleball courts within Sidney, and to have staff reach out to North Saanich – where the park is located – the Victoria Airport Authority and the Peninsula Baseball and Softball Association, to investigate the potential to place pickleball courts in a section of the park used for overflow parking.
“It’s a reasonable way to move this forward,” Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith said of the motion, tabled by Coun. Chad Rintoul. They and Couns. Sara Duncan, Scott Garnett and Peter Wainwright voted in favour of the motion.
Earlier at the meeting, staff recommended postponement of community consultations, design and consulting with Peninsula Recreation Commission about creating an indoor facility, until the District of Saanich completes its test of acoustic panels designed to dampen the noise from the sport. The latter recently created new guidelines for placement of new courts.
Pickleball’s popularity among all age groups has risen in recent years, contributing to the fitness boom, but the noise created has drawn criticisms from those living near courts, including in North Saanich, where that municipality is still seeking a compromise solution for courts on Wain Road.
Sidney staff pointed to Saanich guidelines that indicate courts must be located 152 metres or more away from homes to potentially avoid the need for noise mitigation. All three potential sites in Sidney – Iroquois Park, Tulista Park and Brethour Park – lie well within that radius.
Rotary Park, relatively far from residential areas and in an area accustomed to noise with its proximity to the airport and two busy roads, popped up on Sidney’s radar after the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association raised the idea. While Rintoul acknowledged staff’s assessment that use of the park is already heavy, he said the Peninsula Recreation Commission is already investigating potential pickleball court locations.
Coun. Terri O’Keeffe, who voted against the motion along with Coun. Barbara Fallot, said staff have already invested much energy and effort into a file which ranks below others in priority. She also questioned why Sidney was “foisting” this issue onto North Saanich. If the pickleball association wants courts in North Saanich, it should make its pitch to them, O’Keeffe added.
McNeil-Smith defended the move, noting the two municipalities partner on various fronts, a point brought up earlier when it was stated that Sidney and North Saanich representatives sit on the committee that manages the park.
The mayor also confirmed his previous interest in Tulista Park as a possible location for pickleball in Sidney. The facility includes the skateboard park and lies underneath one of the major flight paths in and out of Victoria International Airport. McNeil-Smith also pointed out that busy Lochside Drive serves as a de-facto sound barrier.
But Wainwright warned against that location due to its proximity to the ocean, noting that Sidney should first study the potential impacts of climate change on the park.
“We should get our act together before we build any significant capital infrastructure,” he said.