The city of Cortez was recently singled out for the pickleball courts constructed at Centennial Park nearly a year ago.
The Starburst Award is given out by the Colorado Lottery for “excellence in the use of Lottery funds for community and conservation projects,” according to the group’s website. Lottery funds were distributed to projects by grants, through Greater Outdoors Colorado, the Conservation Trust Fund, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and Building Excellent Schools Today.
Parks and Recreation Director Dean Palmquist said he believed Cortez was an award recipient because the project was almost entirely paid for by Lottery funds, had a lot of community input throughout the planning process, and draws in a large number of pickleball players from neighboring communities.
“We don’t have other communities around us that have outdoor courts,” Palmquist said. “It brings in people to our community.”
The city first decided to apply for a GOCO grant back in 2015, after seeing a local demand for pickleball, a fast-growing sport similar to tennis, but using a paddle and Wiffle ball instead.
“With our old tennis courts, there was a lot of pickleball play starting to happen there, on the courts, and there was a lot of dead spots on the courts,” Palmquist said. “There got to be enough interest, and then we went through our master plan process with Parks and Recreation, and the pickleball courts came up as one of the higher priorities.”
The city’s first application was denied, but in 2016 the city secured a grant and began construction in fall 2017.
The entire project cost about $189,000, Palmquist said, and the majority was paid for by Lottery funds – $108,000 from the GOCO grant and $79,000 from the Conservation Trust Fund, distributed to communities throughout the state based on per capita residency. The remaining costs were paid for by donations by Cortez residents, he said.
“No tax dollars were used for this project,” Palmquist said.
The project involved converting some of the tennis courts at Centennial Park into pickleball courts by building over the top of the existing courts, Palmquist said. The conversion allowed the city to save money since they didn’t have to go through the entire demolition process.
The resurfacing was delayed by a few months because of weather but opened for business in May 2018.
Since opening, the courts have seen growing popularity, Palmquist said, both from within the community and from surrounding areas.
“We’ve gotten a lot of people in from Durango and Farmington because we are one of the only outdoor courts in the area,” Palmquist said. He added that the courts have even drawn recreational RVers to town.
Starburst Award winners are selected based on projects’ creativity, economic and social impact, and whether or not they achieved their goal.