Pickleball players protest loss of Sunday night game
Ridgefield’s ardent pickleballers and the Parks and Recreation Commission are again trying to work things out.
A weekly Sunday night pickleball game was canceled earlier in the summer, bringing a delegation of pickleballers to meet with Parks and Recreation Commission officials on Wednesday, Aug. 7.
“They raise our rates, then they cancel the summer program and the Sunday night hours. They said it was coincidental, was it?” Jairo Contreras, a pickleball activist, said to The Press.
“They were questioning the termination of the Sunday nights,” Parks and Recreation Director Dennis DiPinto said. “Sunday our facility closes at 6.”
The Sunday night pickleball game ran after hours from 6:30 to 9 p.m. and had been attracting 20 to 30 players each week, according to Contreras — who added that it was drawing between 30 and 50 people before the town raised the rates for pickleball play.
In the spring, after months of deliberations and discussion with the pickleball group, the Parks and Recreation Commission created a pickleball membership that cost $189 a year for most players, who are seniors — the cost is $210 for people under 60. Drop-in fees went from $5 to $7 per session.
DiPinto said the Sunday night after-hours game had been going on with minimal staff and “an ambassador of the sport” — Janice Pauly, a former Ridgefield public school teacher — taking responsibility. She moved from town, and keeping the after-hours game going became problematic, he said.
Still, DiPinto said the plan was to try to work something out.
“We’re going to revisit it and see if we can’t carve something out for them,” he said. “We haven’t taken a deep dive into that.”
DiPinto offered a summary of the Aug. 7 meeting with pickleballers.
“During the special meeting of two subcommittees of the Parks and Recreation Commission, several commissioners heard the concerns of the representative group from pickleball in attendance and explained the reasons for the termination of use of the Danbury Road facility on Sunday nights outside of regular working hours,” he said.
“We also heard and discussed several requests of the group, including finding additional time for pickleball play on weekends,” DiPinto said. “The commission and staff indicated that each request will be considered and that we plan to respond in a timely fashion this fall. We re-enforced that pickleball will continue to be supported by Parks and Recreation with continued strong interest in the community.”
DiPinto said the town is now offering about 40 hours of pickleball a week, between the Recreation Center on Danbury Road and Yanity Gym off Prospect Street.
People also play outside, on tennis courts, and several courts have had pickleball striping added, he said.
Contreras said he and the other pickleballers who met with the recreation officials were skeptical of some of the reasons put forward to justify cancellation of the Sunday night game.
“We’re checking on the insurance liability issue they brought up,” he said. “The staffing issues are non-consequential (in my opinion). They can hire someone else pretty quickly.”