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Monica Stampbach launches a return during pickleball action at Melba Bishop Recreation Center in Oceanside. Photo by Samantha Nelson
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More pickleball courts coming to Melba Bishop

OCEANSIDE — The city is donating additional funds to build more pickleball courts at the Melba Bishop Recreation Center.

The Melba Bishop Pickleball Boosters Association (MBPBA) has been raising money for the last 10 years for construction of additional courts at the park, which is currently home to eight courts.

MBPBA raised about $75,000 to build new courts and even had bids prepared and submitted to be ready for construction. However, because the courts are on city property, the group must pay prevailing wages, which adds costs that the money they already raised doesn’t cover.

At the April 7 City Council meeting, Deputy Mayor Ryan Keim and Councilmember Peter Weiss requested to allow a donation of up to $200,000 from the city’s 2020-2021 capital improvements program (CIP) “Pickleball Phase 1” project account to subsidize the shortfall of the private funds already raised.

Weiss noted he wasn’t advocating for the full $200,000 amount to be donated but rather part of that, which he said would likely be between $15,000 and $20,000. Council unanimously approved the request.

MBPBA is behind numerous pickleball tournaments and events held at the park. As the sport has become more popular, some of those events have outgrown the park and have moved to other cities with larger pickleball capacity.

Originally, the plan was to raise money to build three new courts, but the boosters association and other pickleball players at Melba Bishop hope to see four new courts, which will help the park host even larger tournaments.

Even with only three courts, the park would be able to accommodate about 250 pickleball players, which would be 80 more than the current capacity.

“We want to have the San Diego Senior Games stay here,” said Jenae Alms, president of Melba Bishop Pickleball.

Alms added that she wants to introduce a juniors program for young pickleball players as well.

Pickleball players at Melba Bishop are excited about the new courts.

I’m so excited that we’re finally getting courts at Melba Bishop,” said Monica Stampbach, former president of Melba Bishop Pickleball who was involved in the 10-year push for more pickleball courts. “Thank you so much to everybody who took part in this.”

Lulu McDowell, another player, said the pickleball courts have been full at Melba Bishop long before COVID-19 ever happened. Additional courts would help to accommodate the growing number of players, she said.

“We can have a regional center here where everybody can come and play and know they’ll get a court,” McDowell said.

City Manager Deanna Lorson told City Council that staff is also looking into the feasibility of installing other pickleball courts in other parts of the city as part of its CIP project.

According to the USA Pickleball organization, pickleball is a fun and social sport with simple rules and easy for beginners to learn, but it’s also fast-paced and competitive for more experienced players.

The sport combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis and can be played indoors or outdoors, singles or doubles, on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net. Players use a paddle and plastic ball with holes.

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