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Back To the Future

Rumors! Somedays it seems as if rumors are the mother’s milk of the American psyche. If rumors, like conspiracy theories, are allowed to persist unchallenged they inevitably become fact, at least in the minds of the uninformed. The more salacious the rumor, the more believable it becomes. But rumors, like most conspiracy theories are not fact.

The Landings Golf & Athletic Club is not immune to the rumor mill, including rumors about the future of the pickleball courts. The growth of member participation in pickleball at The Landings has been nothing short of incredible. Keep in mind that pickleball was unknown to most of the membership until it was introduced by a handful of members in 2009. At the time no dedicated pickleball courts existed, so those few who wanted to play had to line a hard surface tennis court with tape and play with old wooden paddles. Today, a mere sixteen years later, close to 1000 participants play on fourteen courts. At times there are so many picklers queued up to play that court space is unavailable.

That said, it is clear to all that there are not enough courts to satisfy the demand for playing time. This is where the rumor mill moves into high gear. About the time the four newest courts (numbers 1-4) were built, picklers were told that the original six courts (currently courts 9-14) were going to be removed and replaced by eight new courts, which would bring our total to sixteen courts. The new courts were to be aligned so that all courts would face the same direction. All that was true, but upon reflection the club’s board decided to postpone the project until a thorough analysis could be done to include the entirety of the Franklin Creek complex. That made sense, but with postponement came rumors. The project is being killed! They – it’s always they – intend to move pickleball to Marshwood! Be advised, don’t confuse rumors with fact.

Today, Franklin Creek gets more daily visitors than any other complex at The Landings. Between pickleball, tennis, bocce and The Deck, the parking lots are frequently full, and the overflow parking spills out onto Franklin Creek Road. Upon reflection, it was decided that adding additional pickleball courts made little sense unless a thorough study was undertaken to determine how best to meet the demand. At the core the math is simple. Tennis continues to grow, although it’s current growth rate pales compared to that of pickleball and bocce. As traffic to the courts explodes, so too does use of The Deck. At times parking is so limited that golf carts park in car spaces and cars in spaces designated for carts. We currently have 135 parking spaces for cars, and approximately 23 for golf carts. We need 70 additional parking spaces and 20 or more additional cart spaces. It seemed to make sense that a thorough study be commissioned to determine long term needs, the cost to implement the plans and how to stage in any additions.

To that end, it is important to know what has been done and how and when any changes or additions will be staged in. The Capital Planning Committee (CPC) commissioned Wood and Partners to determine what is possible, taking into consideration any limits or issues. This plan has been completed and various elements of it will be reviewed at the focus groups scheduled for March. Wood and Partners was told to focus on parking issues and three major components of the pickleball project: re-align the six courts (currently 9-14) and add two more courts, build four courts where the practice court and wall are today, and build a pickleball pavilion. Although the pavilion is scheduled to be the last component of the project, the architect who created the plans for The Deck has already completed a conceptual drawing of the building. The CPC has also engaged The Pinyan Company and Coleman Engineering to estimate costs, feasibility and affordability of the project. Bids have already been secured for the construction of new courts in 2024, pending the completion of all site work.

A diverse advisory group of club members has been formed to provide guidance to the CPC and as previously noted, organized focus groups are scheduled for March. In addition to that, over $800,000 has been ear-marked for the work of additional courts and parking. It should be noted that The Club is working with The Landings Association to see what additional parking options might be considered. Barring any unforeseen problems during the planning session, the funds have been set aside and construction of additional parking and four new courts will begin this year.

So, what comes next? There is a lot that goes into a project of this magnitude. Civil engineers will be engaged for the actual site designs for parking, courts and the pickleball pavilion. After a design has been approved, a construction schedule must be created in order to minimize member disruption. For instance, it makes little sense to do the work on courts 9-14 until the four new courts are complete and playable. Having two fewer courts is an inconvenience, losing six, even temporarily, would be extremely unpopular.

Civil design, contractor bidding and county permits, all need to be dealt with before construction begins. While there is a lot of “behind the scenes” work needing to be done, once permits are approved and contractors selected, construction can begin. As noted, the first phase is estimated to begin this summer. Assuming all goes as planned, including securing necessary funding, detailed plans for a pickleball pavilion will be completed by an architect, and could be built in 2025 or 2026.

With any organization, without transparency rumors are bound to arise. Hopefully this post puts current rumors to rest and gives everyone some insight into the planning that has gone into making the Landing Club pickleball complex a near-term reality.



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