Parks party puts pickleball in the spotlight: BG fundraiser set for Sept. 23

The Bowling Green Parks and Recreation Foundation’s annual Party for the Parks this year has a focus on pickleball.

The majority of the proceeds from the event will be going towards funding outdoor courts for the sport, planned at the Bowling Green Community Center.

The event, taking place at the Veterans Building at City Park, will be held Friday from 5-8 p.m. Tickets are $85 per person, and will be available at the door.

Jenny Swope, a BG Parks and Recreation Foundation trustee, said that the Party for the Parks – formerly called the Wine and Cheese event – is hosted by the organization and is their largest fundraiser of the year.

“And this year we are dedicating the majority of the fundraising efforts towards the new pickleball courts,” she said.

The event will feature food catered by SamB’s, and beer and seltzer selections from four local breweries, as well as wine offerings. Musical entertainment will be by the Bowling Green High School Madrigals, the Jackson Dias Trio and the Grand Royale Ukelelists of the Black Swamp.

“We encourage anybody and everybody who uses our park system – our fabulous park system – to support the foundation in this way,” Swope said, “because all of this money goes towards the parks’ programs and activities. This is not overhead for the foundation.”

David Saneholtz, an enthusiast for the sport who has been playing since 2018, said outdoor courts would permit additional hours of play for players – not just current players, but children and people with a normal workday. He said he’s seen a similar phenomenon at the outdoor pickleball courts in Holland in Lucas County.

“It’s just a matter of time and giving people an opportunity to have access to courts” to play the game, he said. “It’s one of those games that grows on you. It’s easy to play.”

Saneholtz described the sport as a combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton.

“Once you get six courts built, then it’s the Field of Dreams,” Saneholtz said. “You build the field and they will come. They will play.”

Currently, “the pickleball scene in Bowling Green is somewhat restricted to older people because of the time constraints of when you can play” at indoor courts currently available at the Bowling Green State University Student Recreation Center and the Community Center.

“They’re all indoor facilities,” Saneholtz said. “My preference is to play outdoors because I like the surface.”

During the parks and recreation board’s Aug. 23 meeting, Director Kristin Otley said that in recent months an architectural firm had been hired to produce a conceptual plan and financial estimates for outdoor pickleball courts, and that the community center site is the preferred location. She said the current cost estimate for six courts, including fencing, lighting and other amenities, is approximately $800,000.

In a recent interview, however, Otley said the actual price tag is likely to not be that high.

“Don’t want people to be scared off in terms of supporting and working to get this project done,” she said. “At the end of the day, eventually we’ll have to go out to bid. These are just pre-planning documents.

“Basically, I just want to make sure that, as far as the outdoor pickleball courts, the concept plan is just that – it’s a planning document for us as we move forward with the” project, so that the parks and recreation department, and pickleball players, can start raising funds.

“We asked, in working with the architectural firm, we had them include every amenity that could possibly be included in the project. Chances are the project will be done in phases and some of those amenities may not be decided to be put in. Again, it’s a conceptual plan,” Otley said. “The key word is to help with planning. We also asked them to … err on the side of the higher cost, just from the sense that when the project is ready to go out to bid, you don’t want to be surprised.”

She said that in speaking with local pickleball players, and looking at other recent pickleball projects across Northwest Ohio, the $800,000 estimate is high.

Saneholtz, a former professional engineer, estimated during the Sept. 6 city council meeting that the courts, without lighting and shade structures, would cost $287,000. He estimated project costs and other related matters at $335,000.

During a recent interview he called those numbers “a reasonable cost estimate.”

“I think it’s a reasonable one,” he said. “I believe that we should be able to get the courts done for the price without any problem. And there are things that you can add and remove from the pickleball layout to adjust the price up and down somewhat.”