City Council to Vote on Indoor-Sports Facility Proposal
Did you know that, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the United States? For those of you who are unfamiliar with pickleball, it’s basically a mash-up of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. The game is played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes.
Pickleball’s increasing popularity can be attributed to several factors. First, the game is ideal for all skill levels. Since pickleball’s rules are like that of ping-pong, it’s easy for most people to pick up on how to play the game. Pickleball offers something for beginners who might want to try their hand at a fun new game, seasoned players looking for more competitive play and just about everyone in between.
Also, pickleball is a fun social activity. The courts are small enough for players to hold conversations, and the game can be played with a dozen people per session. If you’re looking to bond with your family or have an outing with friends, pickleball makes it easy to socialize while getting a fun workout.
Speaking of workouts, pickleball is also healthy. The sport is just as great for mental health as it is for physical health. Many professional athletes use pickleball to have been injured playing other sports as pickleball puts less strain on the body than other games.
Parks and Recreation Departments across the country are finding pickleball courts to be an affordable and popular choice for local parks and recreation facilities. Because pickleball can be played both indoors and outdoors, it is an accessible option for all types of recreational facilities.
As a matter of fact, the sport of pickleball is gaining even more momentum here in Pensacola as Mayor D.C. Reeves and the City work to have Project Pickle voted on and approved by City Council by early January.
Project Pickle is a proposal for the construction of an indoor sports facility that would include modular courts for a variety of sports, including the ever-popular pickleball. The proposal is to bring the facility to the currently vacant Port of Pensacola Warehouse No. 4. President of Whitesell-Green Construction and the proposed developer for the project, Rob Fabbro and local attorney Scott Remington first presented their vision for the new facility to the City Council by early November.
Warehouse 4 Sports, the proposed name for the new facility, would serve as a multi-purpose space, which could be used for different types of indoor and outdoor sports as well as trade shows and community events. The facility’s indoor “court sports,” a term coined by Community Outreach Coordinator Travis Peterson, would allow residents and tourists alike to enjoy playing the sports they love, regardless of the weather.
The facility would also create opportunities for Pensacola to host more indoor sport tournaments for local athletes. The new facility would also include a large space for various types of community events like graduations, seminars, E-Sport events, expos and large conventions.
The facility would be developed according to a comprehensive four-step plan. First, the City Council will need to vote on a longterm lease agreement for the Warehouse No. 4 building. As the facility gets off the ground, the lease will need to have lower payments for the first few years, which the City must approve.
Negotiations for the facility have been in effect months prior to Reeves’s swearing-in ceremony in November. One problem the council faces is that the Warehouse No. 4 is located behind a security fence, so the fence-line will need to be relocated or redesigned before approval. The other issue is the sequencing of meetings. So far, the proposal has been discussed during only two meetings since Reeves began his term in the mayor’s office. Still, the mayor’s goal as of now is to have a lease brought to the council no later than the February meeting.
“We are motivated to get this project across the finish line and we’re working as diligently as possible to make sure the lease makes sense,” Mayor Reeves said. “Once I took office, I requested some additional investment by the private developers to ensure that when they succeed, we all succeed. We’re moving ahead nicely, and we feel confident that we’re going to get this project across the finish line in relatively short order.”
The next step is, with a minimum $2 million investment from the private sector, the building will need to be brought up to code standards and redeveloped. Then, the updated facility will be open to the community and other visitors for day-use, tournaments, league play and multiple other purposes. The facility will continue to be funded via membership fees.
Finally, in a later phase of the project, the proposed facility building will include a 400-seat arena that can be used for tournament championship games and graduations. This seating area would be set up in a semi-balcony style to avoid audience members mingling with athletes. There will also be an opportunity for live streaming so that family members all over the world can watch the sport matches. Additionally, a sports themed concession stand and sports bar will be implemented.
The modular courts that have already been proposed can be used as five basketball, futsal or tennis courts or 11 volleyball or pickleball courts. The proposal also includes the production of 12 outdoor multi-use courts.
The Project Pickle Proposal states that after the $2 million investment from the tenant to renovate the warehouse, the Port will receive a share of tournament ticket and parking revenue, in addition to lease payments. The facility will be available through public day-use, membership and tournament play. The tenant will assume insurance for further improvements and will reimburse the Port for existing insurance costs.
Warehouse 4 Sports will support local youth and community sports leagues, increased sports tourism opportunities for tournaments, etc. and beach-to-city connection and visitor experiences. The facility will also have a wide-spread impact on the community. According to the UWF Haas Center, this facility can create up to $28 million in economic impact in the first six years. There are internal estimates of more than $2 million in annual tourism revenue.
“I think Project Pickle has a chance to be a catalyst for economic development and prosperity for the city of Pensacola,” Reeves said. “We know that sports and tournaments that have a regional attraction bring a lot of dollars into a community. To have an additional tool in our tool belt, to have something that can bring people here and say, ‘Hey, we already wanted to come to Pensacola because it’s beautiful. We can have a great time here, but we’re also coming because they’re able to host these tournaments,’ I think that compounds our ability again to attract tourism to the city.”
There will also be more options for local youth sports groups to compete in tournaments that are usually held in Destin, Foley or even as far as Orlando, which will greatly cut down on costly travel out of the city. Finally, this facility will connect a vacant and underused space at the Port with the rest of downtown and the historic district, making it a more community-centric place for all.
The facility will be built in the Port of Pensacola’s Warehouse No. 4, which is located next to the Commendencia Slip where the Pensacola Bay ferries operate. For more information about pickleball, visit usapickleball.org. For further details and updates on Project Pickle, visit warehouse4sports.com.