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Victoria Airport Authority grounds plans for pickleball courts in Rotary Park

Memorial Park Society considering options at Blue Heron Park in North Saanich
The search for additional pickleball facilities on the Saanich Peninsula continues after the Victoria Airport Authority said no to the idea of courts in Rotary Park. (Black Press Media file photo)

The search for additional space for pickleball on the Saanich Peninsula won’t involve Rotary Park but could involve Blue Heron Park.

Sidney’s chief administrative officer Randy Humble said staff had discussions with both North Saanich and the Victoria Airport Authority (VAA) about potentially using Rotary Park as a location for pickleball, as per council’s direction.

“They (VAA senior staff) made it very clear that they are not interested in exploring the potential for pickleball courts either outside of the lease area that we have for Rotary Park or within it,” said Humble. “They made it clear that they are more interested in providing levels of community support that are of broader interest to the two municipalities from their perspective.”

Coun. Scott Garnett, who represents Sidney council on the Memorial Park Society (MPS), said the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association has recently approached the society to investigate the possibility of placing courts near the clubhouse used by Peninsula Soccer Association in Blue Heron Park.

“I’m not sure where it is going to go,” said Garnett. “The MPS will be investigating the (potential) of it and they are looking into it.”

Like elsewhere in North America, pickleball has experienced a surge on the Saanich Peninsula, sparking a search for additional facilities beyond the existing courts in North Saanich on Wain Road.

RELATED: Peninsula pickleball players praises Sidney’s investigation of courts at North Saanich’s Rotary Park

North Saanich continues to grapple with the various controversies at the existing courts while Sidney has so far unsuccessfully searched for an appropriate location that would reconcile the growing demand for facilities and quality-of-life concerns by residents living near any future courts.

The subject has also drawn the attention of regional decisions makers and the latest strategic plan for the Panorama Recreation Centre, covering the years 2022 through 2026, sees the Panorama Recreation Commission commit itself to playing a leadership role in helping to better understand indoor and outdoor pickleball needs. Specifically, the commission promises to conduct what it calls a pickleball strategy that will explore, among other issues, future infrastructure needs.

Coun. Chad Rintoul, who represents Sidney along with Mayor Cliff McNeil-Smith on the commission, said the new multi-use sport court at Panorama Recreation Centre, scheduled for a grand opening on May 17, can be used for pickleball, adding that the new multi-use facility in Central Saanich, while not yet designed, could also likely be used for pickleball.

“It’s very much evolving,” he said of the local infrastructure.

Sidney council also passed a resolution asking staff to respond to the association informing it of the VAA’s response and the regional initiatives underway.

Rod Hunchak, director of business development and community relations for the Victoria Airport Authority, confirmed VAA’s rejection of the idea. He said VAA has identified the Rotary Park lands for expansion of airport infrastructure and long-term future development.

“It would not be responsible for us to look at introducing new facilities or expansion of the (park) when those facilities potentially would need to be removed to facilitate development requirements for the airport,” he said. Rotary Park also lies in close proximity to residential areas. “As we are all aware, there are noise issues related to pickleball. We are not supportive of introducing activities which could lead to additional noise concerns by residents of those neighbourhoods.”

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