Laurel Heilman

Eleanor Bailey/The Almanac

Pickleball instructor Laurel Heilman of Bethel Park demonstrates proper form for the popular sport.

Pickleball courts may soon be coming to Mt. Lebanon.

The growing popularity of the sport – it’s a combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton – has prompted local enthusiasts to ask their elected officials about providing some type of accommodation.

As a result, Mt. Lebanon commissioners have been examining possibilities, with one relatively low-price option involving converting two of the Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center courts into six for pickleball.

During the commission’s Oct. 13 discussion session, Kevin Nadalin of Gateway Engineers presented several potential pickleball scenarios, with approximate costs ranging all the way up to nearly $343,000 for construction of three new courts at Mt. Lebanon’s Main Park. Such a project would entail facets including grading, fencing, stormwater management, landscaping and tree removal.

On the other end of the spectrum is an estimated $8,760 for the tennis center conversion, which could prove to be temporary.

“At the end of this project you could, essentially at very little cost, go back to tennis,” Nadalin said.

Other sites he presented as possible pickleball locations were two municipal parks, Meadowcroft and Williamsburg, at which asphalt-surface tennis courts already are present, at costs varying from approximately $23,000 to $80,000.

Playing surfaces at the tennis center are topped with a clay product called Har-Tru, which may not be the first choice for pickleball participants, according to recreation director David Donnellan.

“The only reason I recommend the temporary Har-Tru court version over the permanent is that we would ultimately be able to revert back to regular tennis courts if we decided it wasn’t the best location for pickleball,” he said. “It’s also possible that it could become so wildly popular that you would want it not only to be six courts at the tennis center, but you might want six courts elsewhere.”

In the meantime, pickleball could help enhance the center’s bottom line.

“I think it’s reasonable to assume that because we can fit three pickleball courts in the space of one tennis court that we should be able to achieve something close to three times the revenue, less if you’re pessimistic,” Donnellan said. “But I think with the temporary option, it’s essentially a no-cost option because it’s going to pay for itself in the first year.”

Commissioner Mindy Ranney said residents with whom she has spoken about pickleball would prefer to play for free.

“That’s what they’re currently finding in neighboring communities,” she said. “But it’s good to have some options.”

The topic will be addressed further by commissioners as they work toward formulating the 2021 municipal budget, and the result could be some good news on the pickleball court front.

“It could open May 1, when we open the rest of the tennis courts,” Donnellan said. “I think it would be seamless. We can purchase the equipment in the first part of the year and be ready to go as soon as the rest of the courts are playable.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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