Pickleball group proposes covered courts in Buckley

The last chance to publicly comment on the $2 million proposal is during the March 28 council meeting.

A covered pickleball facility in Buckley? For the hundreds of players from the Plateau and beyond, it would be a dream — but others are worried about increased local traffic, a negative impact on the city’s budget, and that other long-promised projects will continue to be placed on the back-burner.

Close to three dozen people spoke at the March 14 council meeting, with public comments lasting an hour and a half. (For context, the rest of the meeting only took half an hour.)

The issue at hand is a proposed $2 million covered pickleball facility with 12 courts. Funding for the project would come from the nonprofit Enumclaw Pickleball Association, and it would be gifted to the city of Buckley in exchange for the ability to reserve some courts for its members at certain times.

The $2 million figure is only a best guess at what the overall project would cost, and will most likely be adjusted further into the planning period. Enumclaw resident and association member Cathy Dahlquist, who is spearheading the project, said the Enumclaw Pickleball Association has already raised close to $500,000 and is seeking grants and additional donations to get to the $2 million goal.

Three areas are being proposed for the court: one is located on Collins Road, just east of North McNeely Street; another south, nestled in the open area between Ryan Road and Jefferson Avenue; and the third right off state Route 410 just south of the skatepark and Veterans Memorial Park.

The city council hosted a second public comment period on March 28 (after print deadline), and is expected to make a decision to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Enumclaw Pickeball Association during that meeting or the next on April 11.

Signing an MOU is basically signing a pre-agreement to a contract, and establishes a timeline for when milestones like fundraising, planning, permitting, and construction should be met, but is not legally binding.

According to Buckley City Administrator Courtney Brunell, the MOU contains protections for the city in case the $2 million isn’t raised within a time period, so that the city isn’t responsible for filling any gap in funding.

“Once the dollars are raised, the Association would provide all of the funds to the City and we would be responsible for the competitive bidding process and selection to ensure it is done pursuant to bid and prevailing wage requirements,” she said.


It’s in the name — the Enumclaw Pickeball Association. So why propose courts in Buckley?

“The message from the city officials that we received was clear that they were focused on pursuing to built a community center,” Dahlquist said at the meeting. “Considering the donations that I’ve already raised to date, about $426 [thousand] we want to move forward, and the timing was right to bring this project to Buckley.”

Enumclaw Mayor Jan Molinaro added that another reason why the city declined to pursue its own pickleball facility was that the proposed land is already being used for parking at the Expo Center.

“The city also considered the ongoing operations of this court which Park & Rec would be responsible,” he added. “… the city was not ready to have additional expenses for another park at this time as this department plans for improvements in future years to existing neighborhood parks.”


A majority of people who attended the meeting supported the project, mentioning how popular of a sport it is becoming across the country.

But Edward Hechter, former CEO of PickleballCentral and who lived in Enumclaw until 2021, put it into dollars and cents for the council and audience, calling pickleball courts “economic magnets” for cities.

“You need very little space to meet the needs of an awful lot of players. But it also means that with a small amount of space, you can attract an awful lot of players to your venue or facility,” he said. “… It is a tourism business. People travel to play pickleball.”

Pickleball has been called America’s fastest-growing sport — it has increased more than 158% over the last three years to come out to close to 9 million players in 2023, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association — and with it comes an economic impact.

For example, Middletown, OH, says tournaments on its 16 courts “typically has a $300,000 economic impact” on the area, the Journal-News reported in 2019. It should be noted Middletown’s population is about 51,000 (about 10 times that of Buckley’s), and its tournaments host about 250-plus players.

But even a fraction of that could be a boon to Buckley businesses, and several — Anchorhouse Coffee, Vanity, Press Bodyworks, Salon 790, Wayne Gunn State Farm, The Queen’s Ransom, Firehouse Pub, Mom’s Tacos, Alpine Sports Chiropractic, PGA Excavating, Mark of the Town, Front Porch Quilts, Styles On Main, The Scoop On Main, and Main Street Bistro — have signed a petition in support of the project, likely in the hopes of increased traffic downtown.

And Hechter believes this facility would bring a lot of traffic.

The vast majority of local racket sports share space for tennis, badminton, and pickleball, making them less attractive to players. Additionally, local dedicated pickleball courts are open air, so players are constantly on the lookout for covered courts. Thus, a covered, dedicated facility could be a huge draw.

“In the Pacific Northwest, there are very few facilities like this,” Hechter said, noting he thinks the next closest covered and dedicated pickeball court is in Mount Vernon. “People will clamor for the opportunity to play there, especially during the shoulder and winter seasons… member-based programs, participatory programs in the venue, will be able to generate a significant amount of use fee income into the parks and rec coffers directly.”

According to John Ballenger, a previous secretary of the Skagit Valley Pickleball Club and who runs his own one-court facility in Mount Vernon, said the club paid close to $2 million to build the Mount Vernon Blackburn Pickleball Pavilion, a pickleball-dedicated facility with 10 courts, at the local college.

The agreement was that some courts are reserved for club players at certain times (at no cost), but otherwise, the pavilion is open to public use.

But the college and the club get to split revenue from tournaments. Ballenger said even smaller tournaments can produce upwards of $14,000, and the pavilion hosts up to three tournaments a year.

“You could hold a tournament every three months and be booked out,” he said, noting people stay in town for several days to play. “You just get people that move for these tournament.”

“Your city will benefit,” he added. “The money will come back ten-fold.”

Hechter also noted that while the upfront costs of building a covered facility will be higher, maintenance costs will ultimately be lower than for open courts, as the courts aren’t exposed to the elements.

The facility itself could also be a revenue source for the city, or at least work at mitigating or covering maintenance costs. According Dahlquist, public use would be free, but the Enumclaw Pickleball Association proposes using some of its member fees to pay for reserved courts, providing a revenue source to the city to offset annual maintenance costs. Tournaments and other rentals could also be a source of money.


Many people who had concerns about the project were mostly concerned about where the facility might be built.

Mark Berryhill noted that the Ryan Road and Jefferson Avenue area is supposed to be a park, not a building, and that he and others have constantly had to remind the city of this plan when other projects come up.

“I’m all for pickleball. I’m going to try it now… sounds wonderful,” he said. “I just want to protect the park for what it’s intent was.”

Several others noted Collins Road’s high traffic load and that it lacks sidewalks, making it difficult and unsafe for people to walk to the facility; conversely, the SR 410 property, a few added, has better pedestrian access and parking.

Still more were worried about the lack of details currently available to the public.

“I think we’re putting the cart before the horse here… what kind of costs are we going to incur?” one commenter asked. “Are we going to do a traffic impact study?”

One or two others said they thought the projected potential revenue of the courts is far too optimistic, and the cost of maintaining the facility too conservative.

Finally, there were a few that flat out opposed the project, given the city’s short-term financial forecast.

“Your consideration of a pickleball court is unimaginable when this community’s financial picture is so bleak,” one commenter said, invoking elected officials’ duties to protect the financially viability of the city, noting that a recent financial report stated Buckley would have a multi-hundred thousand dollar deficit by the end of 2024. “Are you trying to ruin our community?”

“If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t,” another said. “It would not be prudent to do this at this time… If you’re going to spend money, spend it on projects we already have.”

Image courtesy the city of Buckley
Outlined in red are the three locations for a proposed pickleball facility in Buckley. It appears the location near SR 410 is the most popular, given recent public testimony.

Image courtesy the city of Buckley Outlined in red are the three locations for a proposed pickleball facility in Buckley. It appears the location near SR 410 is the most popular, given recent public testimony.