Community Government Health & Wellness

Pickleballers swarm Peninsula Gardens visioning workshop

Posted on June 14th, 2024 By:

Pickleball players predominated PenMet Parks‘ first public workshop about the future of the former Peninsula Gardens nursery site.

In a vote of most desired park amenities, 24 of the 35 who attended the meeting on Wednesday, June 12, at district headquarters placed one of their five dots on the pickleball photo. Also scoring in the 20s were playground (23) and volleyball (21).

Other options receiving double-digit dots included walking/hiking trails (19), picnic shelters (17), performance space (15), gardens (13), ADA paths (12), art/sculptures (10) and dog park (10).

Participants placed dots on their top five amenities for the Peninsula Gardens site.

Participants placed dots on their top five amenities for the Peninsula Gardens site. The one with all the dots is pickleball courts. Photo by Ed Friedrich

Receiving the least enthusiasm among the 18 choices were tennis (8), multipurpose fields (4), basketball (4), game table (3), workout station (3), skate park (2), bike rack/repair station (1) and wayfinding (0).

First step of many

Wednesday’s event was the first step in the master plan development that will continue through December. PenMet expects design and permitting to occur in 2025-26, followed by construction in 2026-27.

PenMet hired hired consultant AHBL of Tacoma for $139,000 in April to guide the planning.

“We’re all here to listen to you and hear your desires and concerns for this park,” said Senior Landscape Project Manager Sarah Singleton Schroedel, one of six AHBL experts to attend. She worked at Peninsula Gardens right out of college. “We have over 9 acres of potential and really want to find the right solutions. What does the community want and need?”

Aerial view of Peninsula Gardens property.

Aerial view of Peninsula Gardens property. Courtesy of PenMet Parks

Singleton Schroedel recited 11 of the community’s top amenities from last year’s parks, recreation and open space plan, minus ones that are unsuitable for the property. When she reached “pickleball courts,” the crowd whooped.

Next meeting July 25

Craig Skipton, director of landscape architecture, said Wednesday’s meeting was all about programming. The next public workshop on July 25 will deal with site concepts.

“We’re stringing pearls of ideas together to create a place,” he said. “We’ll take those ideas and put them into a site plan, put those blocks and pieces together and come to you with options.”

The consultants will then refine community response to the options into a preferred alternative. That will be the subject of a third public meeting on Sept. 19. An online survey is available on the project webpage for those who can’t attend.

Besides the dot voting, participants Wednesday positioned amenity modules around a large aerial map of the site and posted sticky note comments on a board.

Mostly idle since 2011

PenMet purchased Peninsula Gardens’ three parcels totaling 10.6 acres in 2011 for an even $1 million, according to the Pierce County assessor-treasurer. The land is within a “V” formed by the intersection of arterials Wollochet Drive and Fillmore Drive, a mile west of Gig Harbor city limits.

The grounds house a 24,100-square-foot retail/greenhouse structure and 3,800-square-foot warehouse, according to the county. Built in 2000 and valued at $92,000, they will be removed. The property also includes a 140-car parking lot, stormwater facilities and a forested area.

The park district’s 6-year capital improvement plan for 2025 and 2026 includes $3.7 million to design and build the first phase of what AHBL comes up with once it completes the master plan.

Participants could move amenity modules around a large aerial view of the property.

Participants could place amenity modules around a large aerial view of the property. Photo by Ed Friedrich

It will be the second master plan for the property. A September 2018 blueprint penciled by ARC Architects of Seattle focused on indoor recreation. The next year, PenMet bought the former Performance Golf Center site at 2416 14th Ave. NW for that purpose. It is under construction.

The 2018 Master Plan included other amenities such as a playground, spray pad, picnic shelter, dog park and trails.

Envisioned as rec center

Since PenMet purchased it, the site has hosted farmers markets and rummage sales. The district has used it for storage while it concentrated on the community recreation center and deferred maintenance.

It was difficult to find participants Wednesday to talk about any amenities other than pickleball. The boisterous group, many belonging to the South Sound Pickleball Club (SSPC), said they have limited local court options for the booming sport born in a Bainbridge Island backyard in 1965.

Consultant Sarah Singleton Schroedel speaks with Frank Hassell who wants to see more pickleball courts in the area.

Consultant Sarah Singleton Schroedel speaks with Frank Hassell who wants to see more pickleball courts in the area.

PenMet has no dedicated pickleball courts, but provides playing time on tennis and basketball courts lined for pickleball. Sehmel Homestead Park, with 12 courts, is the primary destination. SSPC reserves all courts on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings while Gig Harbor New Neighbors reserves Monday and Wednesday mornings. Only Friday and Sunday mornings are currently available for causal drop-in or court reservations. There is a fee.

Hales Pass Park has two outdoor pickleball courts shared with basketball courts. Pickleballers share time on tennis courts at Rosedale Park. An indoor fieldhouse at the new community recreation center will be configured for multipurpose athletic events, including striped pickleball courts.

Tom Taylor Family YMCA is the only indoor pickleball venue, with four courts. But membership is required, hours are limited, they can’t be reserved, and demand is high.

City building six courts

The city of Gig Harbor has one public outdoor pickleball court shared with a tennis court in Crescent Creek Park. It plans to install six outdoor pickleball-only courts in Phase 1B of the sports complex that began construction a couple weeks ago.

Canterwood Golf and Country Club provides courts for members.

Kyle Cruver only recently became addicted to the sport and hops between the Gig Harbor and Tacoma YMCAs, Sehmel and Crescent Creek to play several hours per day.

“It’s a little fractional, but I’m having so much fun and meeting wonderful people,” he said. “What’s lovely about it is you can have a 12-year-old and 80-year-old playing together at a pretty high level.”

Pickleball players get in a game at Sehmel Homestead Park.

Pickleball players get in a game at Sehmel Homestead Park. Photo by Vince Dice Vince Dice

Cruver is hoping for more covered courts so the sport isn’t curtailed in winter. Among his other Peninsula Gardens priorities are a performance space and picnic shelters.

Frank Hassell also was pushing pickleball.

“We’re trying to identify enough space between indoor and outdoor because the Y is not adequate,” he said.

He’d like to keep much of the nursery property as open space for its beauty and exercise.

Pickleball booming

Sherill Taylor, a SSPC board member from Lakebay, said she wants more dedicated pickleball courts, including covered ones.

“You just start playing and you get hooked fast,” said Taylor, who has 32 courts available at her Arizona snowbird home. “It’s the hottest-growing sport around.”

Wood fabricator Christo Mroz, a tennis player, said he might be the only anti-pickleball person in the crowd. He’d like to see an art sculpture garden in the new park and makers space for artisans.

“I’m just so happy it’s not going to be a strip mall with a gas station in the corner,” he said.