Pickleball: Both sides of an Evansville debate

Pickleball: Both sides of an Evansville debate
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 11:16 PM CDT
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EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - On Monday, the Evansville City Council will vote on the proposed pickleball courts at Wesselman Park that have sparked a big debate over the last few months.

Michael Watkins was the man who first suggested a few courts at Wesselman Park because of the good it’s done him.

“I have Parkinson’s,” Watkins said. “It’s been a great reliever for me to get out and play.”

Since the Evansville Parks Board approved a project to build 24 courts, Watkins and Steve Burgess have been at the forefront of the push for pickleball and defense of the project.

“It’s just a great sport to bring community friends, family, acquaintances together,” Burgess said.

Burgess, who owns his own court and runs a pickleball business, has spoken in the sport’s defense after concerns that neighbors would have to deal with excessive noise.

“I have several neighbors here,” Burgess said. “And not a single one of them has ever told us about any noise issue from our court.”

Opponents have also said they are not opposed to the sport, they just don’t want it to be at Wesselman Park.

“This is the best city location for the central city of Evansville,” Watkins said. “It’s not out far away north, east or west, and once again, it’s accessible by bus transportation.”

Being a nature preserve and a park, some also worried it could disrupt wildlife, but Burgess says he has doubts about that.

“We have bald eagles that fly over here,” Burgess said. “We’re literally playing pickleball five feet away from a rabbit’s nest.”

There’s no way to know whether his one court is truly representative of how 24 courts in total will affect the area, but he says the chance to bring people together could be worth a small price.

“If I have to hear a little bit of noise to see that kind of friendship and families getting together, I’m willing to watch it every night,” Burgess said.

You can watch our previous story about those who oppose the pickleball courts in the video below:

Pickleball: A closer look at Evansville’s latest debate