Senior pickleball players look to use Marine Park tennis courts

Staying fit: Pickleball has become increasingly popular among older adults.
Photo by Derrick Watterson

A group of elder Brooklyn pickleball players are looking to add markings to Marine Park’s tennis courts, saying the new lines would support the game that’s been increasing in popularity among older borough dwellers. 

“I would like to get Marine Park to mark their tennis courts,” said Michael Chaiet, a senior from Marine Park. “This way the seniors at the senior center could play at a real court, and it would be open to people like us who get together, 25 to 30 people, to come and play on the court.” 

Pickleball playing has exploded among Kings County’s senior population in recent years, and incorporates elements of badminton, ping pong, and tennis. The game requires a group of four players, and a court that’s about a quarter of the size of a regulation-sized tennis court. 

A league of 90 participants — who comprise the Marine Park Pickleball Associates — are asking the Parks Department to mark three tennis courts in the park for pickleball, which could accommodate 48 pickleball players at one time, according to a letter penned by Chaiet on behalf of the association. 

“Marine Park has 12 Tennis Courts — 4 rows of 3,” Chaiet wrote. “If the last row of Tennis courts were double marked for both sports, that would be 12 pickleball courts, enough to accommodate 48 players.” 

Pickleball players currently use two courts at Dr. John’s Playground in Gerritsen Beach that are in decrepit shape, according to Chaiet, who argued that courts at Marine Park would be more accessible for the senior players. 

“They are peeling with paint and the pavement is pitted,” said Chaiet. “It’s an old paddleball court. The concrete is all pimpled out and there is a big seam that runs down it. ” 

Marking courts for pickleball does not prevent them from being used for tennis, and therefore welcomes more users to the park instead of drawing away others, the association rep argued.

“The tennis courts are still playable and pickleball is available, just bring your own pickleball nets,” Chaiet wrote.”This would be a great addition to Marine Park offering a wider selection of paddle sports. It doesn’t take away anything from tennis.”

The association has been pushing the Parks Department for dedicated courts to accommodate the seniors for two years, but greenspace honchos have been slow to accommodate the borough’s seniors — even though neighboring Manhattan is home to 24 pickleball courts. 

“This thing got started after I retired about two and a half years ago,” Chaiet said. “The only place I know the city put pickleball courts in is over by the UN. In Brooklyn, it’s like a big zero, a big zero effort.”  

Chaiet pointed to the Fort Hamilton Senior Center in Bay Ridge, where employees have long facilitated a pickleball program indoors, and during the pandemic quickly transitioned their outdoor junior tennis courts for pickleball.

“Carmine Carro Community Center should have the same opportunity for its members as the Fort Hamilton Senior Center,” the letter said. 

To inspire others to get involved in the fast-growing sport, the pickleball association plans to film three half-hour videos to instruct others how to play and will be live-streaming a pickleball clinic on April 16.

When Brooklyn Paper requested comment, the city Parks Department announced new pickleball courts would be erected with the reconstruction of the Marine Park P.S. 278 Playground for which the design phase is expected to be completed in the fall — claiming the park’s tennis courts are too heavily used to allow for their conversion to pickleball.

“We value input from our community members and are excited to share that as part of the fully funded Marine Park P.S. 278 Playground reconstruction, pickleball courts are included in the design,” said Parks Department spokesperson Anessa Hodgson. “We have also painted pickleball courts at Dr. John’s Playground within Marine Park to bring this amenity to other parts of the park.” 

Update (April 13): Parks Department previously told Brooklyn Paper the project was expected to be complete in the fall, but an agency spokesperson later reached out stating only the project’s design phase was expected to be completed by that time.