Sports facilities were of public interest on Thursday night, during the latest public municipal budget meeting.
Next week, Kamloops council will decide whether to approve supplementary budget items — 11 requests that range from a $750,000 study to upgrade the RCMP detachment downtown to the hiring of arborists. In advance, the city met with the public to discuss the proposed projects and spending.
(Not all requests could impact this year’s tax bill, but if all projects were approved, they would represent an estimated property tax increase of about .26, resulting in a hike this year of about three per cent.)
Roughly 70 people, including city staff and most of council, attended the public meeting, downtown in the Valley First Lounge at Sandman Centre.
Kamloops Pickleball Association members attended, putting their weight behind a request for more pickleball court space at Riverside Park. The group has been advocating for additional space for some time and has raised $12,000 toward the cause. The pickleball players are asking the city to repurpose two multi-use tennis-pickleball courts at Riverside Park into six permanent pickleball courts, so that tournaments may be attracted to the city.
“Most days you go there, two of the tennis courts are used, the other two aren’t,” Kamloops Pickleball Club member Harvey Comazzetto said.
The project would cost $75,000 and the city proposed to pay the remaining $63,000 with community works funding. Comazzetto called it a “low-cost alternative” to building an entirely new facility, noting the sport continues to grow in popularity.
However, a pair of tennis players who play weekly at Riverside Park turned up to oppose the plan.
Graham Simson, 30, is concerned about losing quality public court space.
“It would be a detriment to tennis, especially in the downtown core,” Simson said, noting large groups of pickleball players turn up for short periods of time, whereas tennis players arrive in fewer numbers more consistently.
The other fear is whether the change will result in elimination of the remaining tennis courts.
Not so, according to the city.
“We’re not going to completely turn the park into a pickleball park,” said the city’s recreation manager, Barb Berger. “People feel pretty protective of the green space. We’re not interested in eliminating tennis from the mix. If this, at this point in time, represents a higher use, keeping people going, that’s great. It’s really about using the same sort of square footage of asphalt, but putting the lines on to meet those needs.”
Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian supports the pickleball request, given the group’s work in the past three years to engage with youth, organize tournaments and raise money.
“In my mind, they’ve ticked off all the boxes that I’ve been asking about,” he said.
Meanwhile, as pickleball and tennis players battle for courts, squash players also attended the budget meeting to have their say.
Kamloops Squash Association president Dave Clutton said local squash players must travel to Salmon Arm to play as Kamloops is without courts. Private squash courts have come and gone in recent years and between 350 and 400 squash players currently have no place to play in town.
Berger said indoor gym space, which could include squash and racquetball courts, has been identified as a need in the city’s recreation master plan.
“I believe there is a need, but I do think we need those gymnasiums that are really multi-purpose built,” she said, noting the city’s active community is “diverse.”
Christian was pleased with the turnout on Thursday, noting recent public meetings have been well attended.
A number of Kamloops Fire Rescue members were also on hand, though members did not identify to KTW any financial request of the city and no projects linked to the group are on the supplementary list
In addition to court space, Christian said topics of discussion included the Riverside Park outdoor skating rink and transit. A group of West End residents were also on hand, concerned over the potential rerouting of a downtown bus route.