St. George approves funding for pickleball complex expansion, water-saving artificial turf – St George News

2022-05-14 08:37:55 By : Mr. yume Li

ST. GEORGE — The pickleball complex in Little Valley is slated to expand as plans are underway to add nine new courts, including a championship court to better cater to tournament play. It is one of two recreation-related projects the St. George City Council recently approved for which to accept funding from the county.

The expansion of the pickleball complex is estimated to run $2 million, with Washington County supplying $1 million of that via transient room tax revenue (tourism-based taxes collected from hotel and similar temporary lodging stays within the county) through an interlocal agreement.

“Probably the No. 1 call we get is for more courts,” Shane Moore, the city’s leisure services director, told the St. George City Council during its meeting last Thursday.

The Little Valley pickleball complex saw its last expansion in 2015 when it grew to 12 courts.

With the recent realignment of Horseman Park Drive in Little Valley, Moore told St. George News prior to the council meeting, the city will be able to add the new courts. This will include a championship court, which will be built by the restroom facility and will feature increased lighting and bleachers for spectators, he said.

“As pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the county, we need more pickleball space,” Moore said.

While something of a recent phenomenon over the last decade, pickleball started around 50 years ago in a community near Seattle, Washington, and was the invention of three fathers who wanted something to keep their children occupied, according to

What began as a backyard game has since grown to encompass all 50 states and beyond as it continues to grow in popularity. According to the USA Pickleball Association, the sport grew over 20% in 2020 to include 4.2 million players and counting.

Though the sport is popular with young and old alike, roughly 75% of the core players are 55 and older.

As for how popular the sport is locally, Moore said the courts are packed during pique playing times.

While the county will be supplying roughly half the cost of the project, St. George will be seeking additional funding and grants through the state to pay for the remainder.

With the approval of the interlocal agreement last week, Moore estimated people may begin to see movement on the pickleball complex expansion by next fall.

The other project the city and county partnered on is the replacement of 7 acres of turf at the Fields at Little Valley sports complex with artificial turf for around $3 million. The county is funding $1.5 million of the cost while impact fees from new construction will supply the city’s half, Moore told the council.

The turf replacement, which will cover the three lighted fields at the complex, will have two primary benefits, Moore said.

First, it is projected to save the city up to 17 million gallons of water annually. Second, the artificial turf will allow for extended use of the fields during months they would otherwise be closed for seeding or winter.

Recently, a youth soccer tournament wanted to play in Southern Utah, but sports fields in Washington City and St. George had been closed for the winter months as the grass wasn’t actively growing at the time, Moore said. Because of that, the tournament had to go to Mesquite instead. Installing the artificial turf will allow future tournaments to stay in St. George during the winter season.

As the fields were built large enough to host other field-based sports, more than soccer players and tournaments will benefit from the expanded use. Locally, both private and public sports leagues will benefit from the extended use as well, Moore said.

“It’s good for the community and good for our water,” he said.

The artificial turf, which doesn’t feel much different from regular grass, Moore said, also requires less maintenance than the real thing, and has a life of between 10 and 12 years.

Councilwoman Michelle Tanner, who has expressed disagreement over the city’s using taxpayer money for recreational pursuits and facilities, said she supported the turf replacement due to the water savings it is projected to create.

“The water conservation is huge,” she said.

As for who uses the pickleball courts and sports fields in Little Valley the most, Moore said it is not the out-of-town-based tournaments that rotate in and out throughout the year but rather the area residents.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2022, all rights reserved.

Mori Kessler serves as a Senior Reporter for St. George News, having previously contributed as a writer and Interim Editor in 2011-12, and an assistant editor from 2012 to mid-2014. He began writing news as a freelancer in 2009 for Today in Dixie, and joined the writing staff of St. George News in mid-2010. He enjoys photography and won an award for photojournalism from the Society of Professional Journalists for a 2018 photo of a bee inspector removing ferals bees from a Washington City home. He is also a shameless nerd and has a bad sense of direction.

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