Preparation Underway for Annual Founders Tournament; Meanwhile, Local Pickle-ballers Get Serious About Covered Courts

Local Pickle Ballers are already fast at work prepping for the 5th Annual Bainbridge Island Founders Tournament, slated for August 7-11 at scenic Battle Point Park.

The multi-day tourney is a fundraiser for the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum in partnership with the BI Metro Parks & Recreation District, and the island’s growing Pickleball community (https://bipickleball.org/).

Among many other activities, the tourney will include clinics, a Wooden Paddle contest, doubles matches with the over 65 crowd, as well as a whole slew of contests involving men’s and women’s doubles play and mixed doubles games.

Bainbridge, of course, is the home of Pickleball, which was “invented” on the island in 1965 by three friends and their families in Pleasant Beach and has grown to become an international sport, with nearly five million participants.  So far, 473 players are registered to play in this year’s Founders tourney.

New in 2024 is a free Beginners Clinic to be held on August 4, from 11 a.m. – Noon at the Founders Courts complex. As in years past, the tourney is offering tours of the famed First Court, or Court 1, as some call it. Tickets are $25 and participants will be shuttled to the site. Tournament backers are also seeking out additional corporate sponsors for the event. For more info visit, 5th Annual Bainbridge Island Founders Tournament — Bainbridge History Museum

A Quick Overview of the Founders Tournament

AUGUST 7, 2024 – WOODEN PADDLE TOURNAMENT, SENIORS MIXED DOUBLES 60+ & 70+
Play pickleball like it was originally played. Participants get a limited-edition wooden paddle. The wood paddle will be in the afternoon after the Senior Mixed Doubles events.

AUGUST 8, 2024 – SENIORS MEN’S & WOMEN’S DOUBLES 60+ & 70+
AUGUST 9, 2024 – WOMEN’S DOUBLES 8-49 & 50+
AUGUST 10, 2024 – MIXED DOUBLES 8-49 & 50+
AUGUST 11, 2024 – MEN’S DOUBLES 8-49 & 50+

Meanwhile, the local Pickleball Community is holding discussions with the Parks District in hopes of building covered courts sometime in the future. The question is where and when? A handful of Pickleball enthusiasts, led by Melissa Bang-Knudsen, and including Erin Phillips, Jon Thwaites and Tom Kelly, recently made a presentation to the Park’s Board of Directors.

According to Bang-Knudsen, two options for locations of covered courts were presented, one at Battle Point Park, where the District’s current maintenance shed is located (BI Pickleball would fund the relocation of the maintenance shed before building the proposed facility), and one on the recently acquired parcel at Strawberry Hill Park.  The proposal for Battle Point Park would feature eight covered courts, while the proposal for Strawberry Hill would include 11 covered courts.
Viewers should be aware that the above slides present initial concepts and are not definitive plans for future courts, Bang-Knudsen emphasized. “They simply showcase potential ideas for consideration. Collaborating with Parks and Recreation, along with neighbors, will be essential to planning.”

Following the presentation members of the community in audience were asked for their input. Most of the community was supportive of the need for covered courts, Bang-Knudsen said. Many expressed concerns over locating the covered courts at Battle Point. Members of the Battle Point Astronomical Society expressed concern over preservation of the dark sky environment, including light from covered courts, added traffic and the parking lot lighting. Others mentioned that precedent had already been set regarding a policy of no lighting at the park. Some speakers believed there could ways to mitigate the light pollution, which includes enclosing the covered courts at night, and shared use policies.

Neighbors also expressed concern for added traffic on the roads around Battle Point Park, especially on Arrow Point Drive as well as a need for additional parking, Bang-Knudsen added. Other concerns included: the cost to update the park’s stormwater management plan with the City of Bainbridge Island and the overused restrooms facilities with the added capacity. It was noted that the Battle Point Park proposal wouldn’t impede the open area of the park, since it would be replacing the maintenance shed.

Several of the Park’s Board Members also “echoed a need for covered pickleball courts.” Some board members offered up separate commentary regarding the proposal for Strawberry Hill Park, Bank-Knudsen said, noting that neighbors in the vicinity of Strawberry Hill Park were not notified that a proposal for pickleball facility at the park was being presented to the park board, due to some miscommunication. While there are many unknowns at both locations, Board members pointed out advantages of building a covered pickleball facility at Strawberry Hill Park:

  • “It is a blank slate.”
  • The park is centrally located on the island with a road better equipped to handle any increases in traffic.
  • Light pollution wouldn’t be an issue.
  • There may be fewer conflicts with other user groups.

Added Bang-Knudsen: “The Board believed a facility at Strawberry Hill Park would most likely happen faster than any facility at Battle Point Park.” It “concluded the discussion by instructing staff to work with BI Pickleball Community to refine the options and present a more detailed plan.”

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