Painting lines on a tennis court is not normally something associated with years of struggle, battles with bureaucracy and a long-running battle with players of another sport.
But after the years it took for a group of pickleball players to get permission to paint lines on a rarely used tennis court, the mood Wednesday morning at Petrack Park was nothing short of triumph.
“It’s probably been about five years we’ve been struggling to do this,” said Linda Delamare, who, with her husband, Rob, were among eight people who were working to put down yellow lines on one of the two Petrack Park tennis courts.
“A couple of times we came here and put tape down, and when we came back in the morning the tennis players had pulled it all up and threw it in the garbage can, so we gave up on that. So we just bought some portable markers.”
While portable nets are common in pickleball, portable markers are not that effective, susceptible to high winds and posing a tripping threat to players. A bigger issue, say the pickleball players, was resistance from tennis players, although the pickleballers say tennis players are sighted slightly more often than Bigfoot.
“You look down here at the courts, there’s nobody playing tennis, but there will be people playing pickleball,” said Mike Norton, secretary/treasurer of the Nevada Horseshoe Pitchers Association, which holds tournaments at the other end of Petrack Park.
“I’ve never seen both courts being used at the same time,” said Rob Delamare, whose wife, Linda, started contacting officials about getting courts in town almost five years ago. “I thought there would be somebody here at 8:30 when we got here.”
“It seems like there’s a pretty good tennis lobby in town even though we never see anybody play here,” added Dave Florio, who was helping paint the pickleball lines with his wife, Sheri.
“I think they just didn’t want us imposing on their tennis courts,” Linda Delamare said. “Rob and I are RVers and we travel around the United States, and we’ve seen a lot of places where the tennis courts have a different color line for pickleball. This shouldn’t really be a problem, but I don’t know. It’s just been a real struggle.”
“The real issue is there are two tennis courts that aren’t used, and even one of the tennis players plays pickleball,” said Jim Groebner, one of the players who has emailed town officials about the court issue. But the pickleballers have done more than that over the past few years trying to get a public court in Pahrump.
“We asked if we could use those courts, we asked if we could use the gym for summer play because it’s air conditioned, and they said no, because sometimes we use that old gym,” Linda Delamare said. “I don’t know if it was a liability issue or they didn’t want to give us a key to the place.
“I went all the way up to Tonopah to the district education offices, and they said no. So we kind of gave up.”
“I’ve been to a half-dozen parks and recreation board meetings,” Jim Groebner said. “We kept getting lip service, but we couldn’t get approval to put lines on the court.”
Pickleball, basically a combination of table tennis, badminton and tennis, dates to the 1960s. Players use a paddle larger than one used in table tennis to hit a Wiffle ball on a scaled-down tennis court.
All of the players were grateful to Wine Ridge RV Resort &Cottages, which has allowed players in town to use their pickleball courts in lieu of public courts.
“Wine Ridge is very magnanimous, letting us play up there,” Groebner said. “They let Marnel (Jim’s wife) and I play because we do lessons up there on call. When it gets crowded, we leave because the RVers really should have priority.”
“The winery’s been very, very good,” Dave Florio said. “They don’t have to let the locals play.”
Wine Ridge’s pickleball courts are a draw for RVers who spend time in Pahrump, and at least some of the people at Petrack Park on Wednesday morning learned to play because of it.
“My brother in-law and sister taught us,” Sheri Florio said. “They’re RVers and they were at the winery, so they taught us. It’s the first time I’ve done any kind of sport like this. I used to just fish rivers.
“My brother-in-law learned when they started RVing. He only goes to parks that have pickleball courts.”
With the USA Pickleball Association estimating 2.8 million players in 2017 and 5,883 known courts in the country — increasing by an average of 95 each month during 2017 — and the game especially popular among seniors, Pahrump seems like a natural location for public courts. Converting tennis courts has been the simplest way of meeting the demand for pickleball courts, but the pickleballers do understand where the resistance comes from, at least in part.
“Their concern is that there are two tennis courts and they are worried if there are pickle lines out there there will be a crowd of people wanting to pay pickleball and they’ll get pushed out,” Jim Groebner said. “I guess there’s validity to that belief, but we’re asking for one court.”
“It’s the tennis people that fight us, and it’s the same story all across the country,” Rob Delamare said. “They’re taking a court like this and putting three or four pickleball courts on it. Tennis people feel threatened, and I don’t blame them.”
Perhaps not surprisingly, matters have come to a head at least once.
“I got into it three years ago with the tennis players because there was a flaming ego,” Jim Groebner recalled. “‘Pickleball isn’t a sport, tennis is. Pickle ball is a game. We don’t want to get confused with the lines.’ Sounds to me like you’re not too good if those lines are going to confuse you.”
For the record, the pickleball lines painted Wednesday are yellow while the tennis lines are traditionally white.
Marnel Groebner said Wednesday was not the first time she was part of a group of pickleball players who made a court a DIY project.
“There was an unused tennis court where we’re from (in Washington), and we approached the city and asked them if we could paint lines,” she said. “We did this exact exercise up in Washington so we were able to have outdoor pickleball. It was a piece of cake. We didn’t have the tennis players to contend with.
“We said we’ll pay for the supplies and we’ll do it, and they said have fun.”
The same offer has been made for several years in Pahrump, but until this year it was met not with denial but no answer at all.
“The new town manager, Timothy Sutton, who is also the country manager, he seems to be more user friendly,” Rob Delamare said. “(Buildings and grounds manager) Matt Luis tried to get a decision on this in the past, but Matt felt like he was in the middle of the battle.”
Permission finally granted, the group of avid pickleball players spent three hours Wednesday morning creating pickleball courts on one of Petrack’s tennis courts.
“It was only about 70 bucks, the tape was $35, the paint was another 30 bucks and I got some rags,” Jim Groebner said. “The cost was minimal. You’re looking at three hours with eight to 10 people.”
The players indicated one potential issue already is on the horizon. The courts will be resurfaced this summer, and nobody knows if the town will include pickleball lines, if they will be allowed to repaint the lines, or neither.
“This is only for three months,” Dave Florio said. “It looks really accurate, but after they pave it they might renege and say the tennis people got (angry).”
The Pahrump Pickleball War might yet continue.