Traverse City News and Events

Group Launches Fundraising Campaign To Build New Pickleball Courts At Bowers Harbor Park

By Craig Manning | Jan. 27, 2022

A committee of local community members, affiliated with the Traverse Area Pickleball Association (TAPA), is seeking to build eight brand-new dedicated courts for pickleball at Bower’s Harbor Park on Old Mission Peninsula. The group, which is calling itself the Bowers Harbor Pickleball Committee, just launched a fundraising effort aimed at helping cover the costs of the project, which committee co-chair Dawn Hemming estimates will be around $475,000.

The effort was prompted by a substantial surge in interest for pickleball both locally and nationwide. The popular game – which combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong – has been branded “the fastest-growing sport in America” by The Economist. Local advocates for the sport say the growth in interest has outpaced the availability of courts and facilities. Tha shortage is most pressing in the winter, given the scarcity of indoor pickleball facilities in the region, but Hemming says numbers have grown to the point where even outdoor courts in the region are often clogged during the summer months.

“The past couple of seasons have seen a surge in pickleball play at Bowers Harbor Park,” reads a fundraising letter that the Bowers Harbor Pickleball Committee recently sent to potential donors. “Our player community has grown, the level of play has matured, and our friendships have deepened. We ended last season with 75+ active players, many of whom could be found playing five days per week. As we look toward next season, it’s certain that our inclusive and social collection of players will attract even more participants.”

Currently, there are four tennis courts at Bowers Harbor Park that are also striped for pickleball. But the Bowers Harbor Pickleball Committee says the striping for both sports makes the courts confusing, and that other issues – such as “perilous surface defects” and “cumbersome/fragile netting” – render those courts less than ideal for the growing pickleball community. “Most problematically, the courts are less and less able to accommodate the exploding demand for pickleball play, leading to frustratingly long wait times for players.”

If fully funded, the Bowers Harbor Pickleball Committee/TAPA project would pay for Molon Excavating to build eight courts at Bowers Harbor Park, all intended specifically and exclusively for pickleball. The courts would include pickleball-only striping, wind-blocking screens, fixed netting, a “shaded promenade,” and lighting. The new facilities would be located near the existing tennis courts at the park.

Hemming says the project has “the full support of the Peninsula Township Board,” but that the township isn’t able to allocate any taxpayer dollars toward the new courts at this time. As a result, TAPA and the Bowers Harbor Pickleball Committee are seeking to raise the funds for the project through a variety of different avenues.

“The total project will likely near $475,000,” Hemming tells The Ticker. “We hope to raise that between grants, corporate donations and pro bono work, and individual donors to complete the entire project, including lights, covered pergola, acoustic fencing, and wind screens. We will have a few phases of construction based on fundraising.”

Tax-deductible donations can be made online or via check, made out to “TAPA-Bowers Harbor” and mailed to TAPA, care of Dawn Hemming, at 601 East Front Street, Suite 201, Traverse City, MI 49686.

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