About 60 pickleball enthusiasts from the Four Corners area attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Cortez’s new outdoor courts on Saturday.
In May, the city finished converting some of the tennis courts in Centennial Park into playgrounds for pickleball, a tennis-like sport with a growing following in Southwest Colorado. Parks and Recreation Director Dean Palmquist and City Councilman Mike Lavey dedicated the new courts in a ribbon-cutting ceremony, followed by lessons in the sport by members of the Southwest Colorado Pickleball Association. Several members of the association traveled from Durango to show their support and to raise awareness for their ongoing efforts to persuade their own city to build outdoor pickleball courts.
Palmquist started the ceremony by reviewing the courts’ history. The city first sought a Great Outdoors Colorado grant for the project in 2015 in response to widespread demand for outdoor pickleball courts, he said. That first application was turned down, but the city secured a grant in 2016 and finally began construction in the fall of 2017.
The courts’ resurfacing was delayed several months due to weather, much like the grand opening, which was originally scheduled for June 16, but had to be postponed because of a rainstorm. But they opened for business at the end of May, and Palmquist said they’ve had plenty of business since then.
“It is rewarding to drive by and see the wide range of ages using this facility,” he said before the ribbon-cutting. “On a Tuesday night ... it was one family playing here – three generations. It can’t get any more rewarding than that.”
On Saturday, dozens of pickleball players gathered to watch Lavey cut a ribbon officially opening the courts to the world. The councilman welcomed the visitors from Durango and Farmington to use the courts any time.
Some of them started right away, as professional player Vivian Edwards gave free lessons to the few beginners in the crowd while SWCPA president Brian Blanchard sparred with the more advanced players. Edwards said representatives from the association, which has more than 100 active members in the Durango area, went to the event to support what is now the closest outdoor pickleball venue to their hometown.
“Cortez is way ahead of Durango in that they have this huge, beautiful master park,” he said. “We don’t really have that in Durango. We’ve got parks kind of scattered all over.”
He said his group has been asking the Durango Parks and Recreation Advisory Board for about two years to build a court like the one in Cortez, but with no success.
The almost $200,000 cost of building the six pickleball courts was mostly covered by the GOCO grant and donations from Cortez residents, Palmquist said. Apart from a roughly $7,000 upgrade for the lights around the courts that has yet to be completed, he said the courts have cost the city almost nothing in taxpayer dollars.
The next big project facing the Parks and Recreation Department is the construction of a new park on the old Montezuma-Cortez High School property on the south side of town. The city has already hired a designer for the project, and Palmquist said he plans to meet with city staff on July 12 to determine their next steps.