Trumbull officials: Pickleball, tennis won’t replace hoops at park

Pickleball enthusiasts enjoy a morning game at Unity Park in Trumbull, Conn. on Tuesday, September 29, 2021.

Pickleball enthusiasts enjoy a morning game at Unity Park in Trumbull, Conn. on Tuesday, September 29, 2021.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

TRUMBULL — It’s not that Patricia Kelly has anything against pickleball.

The Trumbull resident both acknowledges and respects that the sport is having a moment. But, Kelly said, she was distressed when she heard Trumbull officials were planning to remove the basketball court at Island Brook Park to make way for six pickleball courts and two tennis courts.

“The kids need this,” she said of the basketball court. “It’s always a conversation that there’s not much to do in town for the younger kids.”

She took to social media to broadcast that the basketball court was being pushed aside for pickleball courts. Kelly wasn’t alone in her zeal for keeping basketball around, said Trumbull public works director George Estrada.

“There were residents from that area reaching out to the first selectman’s office expressing concern,” he said.

Estrada said First Selectman Vicki Tesoro, along with himself, the parks and recreation director and the chair of the Parks and Recreation Commission, considered whether the removal of the basketball court was necessary to add in the pickleball courts. Ultimately, they decided it wasn’t.

“I requested that the decision to remove the basketball court at Island Brook Park be reconsidered,” Tesoro said in a statement posted on the town web site on Wednesday. “It was decided by all that the removal of the court would not happen. The decision by the Parks & Recreation Commission last fall to add pickleball courts at Island Brook Park will go forward.”

Kelly said she was pleased that town officials heard the concerns of residents and acted on them.

“I really appreciated that they did that,” she said.

Other local residents agreed, including Dawn Wood, whose 16-year-old son is regular at the basketball court.

“I feel there’s not enough for our teenagers to do already outdoors,” Wood said. “We want them outside. We want them active. These basketball hoops are important.”

Estrada said the new plan is to keep the basketball court, add six pickleball courts and have one renovated tennis court. Currently, the park has three tennis courts. He said the project is on track to be completed some time in July.

When completed, the pickleball courts at Island Brook Park will be the second set of pickleball courts in Trumbull, with the first having opened at Unity Park last year. Pickleball is a sport played with paddles and incorporates elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis.

According to the USA Pickleball Association, about 4.8 million people in the U.S. play pickleball. Though it was invented in 1965, it has had a surge in popularity of late. The USA Pickleball Association reports that participation in the sport grew by nearly 15 percent between 2020 and 2021.

“It’s a very, very popular sport,” Estrada said. “I’ve been here since 2020, and all I heard was pickleball, pickleball.”

Kelly agreed that pickleball has taken Trumbull by storm, but doesn’t think it should replace sports that have endured, like basketball.

“Basketball has never gone away,” she said. “Pickleball could be a fad for all we know.”