MADISON- The borough plans to build a multipurpose basketball and pickleball court at the Madison Recreation Complex (MRC) next spring.
After two years of discussions and the elimination of six other sites from consideration, city officials focused their attention on two MRC sites on Ridgedale Avenue, with each proposal supported by different city committees.
The land would be located either directly north of Madison High School’s existing tennis and pickleball courts, or across the driveway in the loop parking lot that adjoins the resort’s Forest Conservation Area.
“This is one of the most approved projects we’ve ever presented,” Mayor Robert Conley said Monday at a borough council meeting. “It has been discussed for two years, but also reviewed by several committees, as it should be. I think that sets the tone for future projects along the way.
Council is due to vote on the location within the next month, Conley said, with the goal of starting construction early next spring.
The 100-by-75-foot court would be striped for basketball and pickleball, with three pickleball courts arranged side-by-side in a full-length basketball court. The court would feature a total of six basketball hoops – one at each end of the court along the full length and four on the sides of the court to allow for smaller games.
At any given time, the court would allow for either one all-court basketball game, two smaller basketball games, three pickleball games, or one pickleball game and one smaller basketball game. The yard would also feature fencing and lighting.
The hoops could be lowered to better suit uses such as wheelchair basketball, which would be a boon for residents of the Cheshire Home rehabilitation center adjacent to the MRC. The site near the tennis courts would also link directly to a paved, accessible footpath that is currently under construction, another project that will benefit residents of Cheshire Home.
The project would cost around $200,000 if built in the wooded area near the tennis courts, or around $160,000 if built atop the parking lot across the street. The site near the tennis courts would cost more due to tree removal and replacement.
About $80,000 of the total cost would be provided through the borough’s Open Spaces, Recreation and Historic Preservation Trust Fund, with an additional $20,000 from the Madison Basketball Association and the remainder between $60,000 and $100,000 from the Borough’s 2023 capital budget.
The Madison Environmental Commission and the Madison Shade Tree Management Board prefer the location of the parking lot because it would require no tree removal and have a lower impact on the environment.
The Madison Basketball Association and pickleball players advocating for the project, as well as the Recreation Advisory Committee, Parks Advisory Committee, and Open Spaces, Recreation and Historic Preservation Advisory Committee, all say they prefer the location of the tennis court. These groups cite, among other reasons, the convenient location near existing courts, wheelchair and other pedestrian access from the accessible pathway, and that the alternate location would result in the loss of parking spaces.
Conley said the location of the tennis court is considered the best option from a programming perspective, but that the borough would consider recommendations from its committees regarding tree replacement, stormwater runoff, and dredging. other environmental concerns if it decided to build there.
Although the committees disagree on the location – and many residents and volunteers have rushed for sites outside the MRC over the past two years – Conley said “not all committees had no doubt in their minds that the courthouse is an inherently beneficial facility for the borough of Madison and it is a necessary facility.
He said of the location of the tennis court: “Adding three pickleball courts just above the 12 courts that are there right now has a great synergy…. There’s the dynamic that tennis is always played, so there’s a balance between tennis players and pickleball players. By having space that can be used for pickleball, you may be able to make more tennis courts available.
Other sites considered included two locations near the Madison Community Pool, the parking lot behind Bayley-Ellard Fields, two locations at Dodge Field, and another location between the grass fields and the MRC parking lot. All were excluded for reasons ranging from noise and lighting issues for neighbours, limited space and impact on existing leisure facilities.
The council had proposed an ordinance in June 2021 to spend $110,000 on a basketball court and pickleball courts at the Madison Community Pool site, but filed the proposal amid concerns of neighborhood impact and that the pool wanted to restrict access to the courts to pool members. only for certain hours.
As the number of potential court locations shrunk to two, residents argued for and against the MRC locations at the council meeting.
Locust Street resident Shannon Holland read a letter from her husband, city volunteer Chris “Dutch” Holland, thanking the city on behalf of the Recreation Advisory Committee and the Madison Basketball Association for supporting the locations of the MRC, which he called “a perfect example of the beneficial use of less than 0.2 acres of space for active recreation.
Shannon Holland, Lisa Moro of Central Avenue and Peter Boyd of Norman Circle also championed the MRC project and the active recreation opportunities it will provide to residents.
Pomeroy Road resident Tom Haralmpoudis, Democratic candidate for borough council, said the decision-making process had been long and exhaustive – perhaps too long and exhaustive.
“It took a long time. It shouldn’t have taken that long, from my point of view,” he said. “You have a wellness campaign in the community and it’s not just for the young people in the community, it’s also for the adults. The only adult activity that we really offer to the community now is walking, unless you want to go play basketball or go play soccer in college, so this is an opportunity for us to keep the adults in the borough active and social.
“It’s not just an adult activity,” he said of pickleball, “there are families playing, there are kids playing. So whatever happened to get us to this point, at least we’re here now. I hope we have the full support of the board moving forward, and I’ve told you before, I don’t think we should stop there.
Tom Salaki of Fairwood Road, a professional landscape architect, former chair of the parks advisory committee and current member of the Shade Tree management board, said the borough should have hired an outside consultant to objectively review all potential locations.
He said he thought the selection process was ultimately subjective and said the city had overlooked additional sites at Memorial Park and Delbarton Field, and that the Bayley-Ellard site and others would be less intrusive to the environment.
“I fully support the courts in this city,” he said. “I think we need it and I think we need it soon. I just want to make sure that an appropriate and responsible decision – both fiscally and environmentally – is made.
Kathi Caccavale, chair of Sustainable Madison’s advisory board, also made the case for Bayley-Ellard, saying the site is isolated enough from neighbors that noise and lighting aren’t an issue.
Mayor Conley said the city won’t be able to light the Bayley-Ellard location off Madison Avenue, while Councilwoman Debra Coen said the site isn’t as easy to get to. on foot or by bike than the MRC.
“When the MRC was considered, the concept was that we wouldn’t extend lighting into neighborhoods and we would keep lighted facilities in the MRC, which is further away from residential,” Conley said. “So that was eliminated.”
Coen and Councilman Rachel Ehrlich agreed with Salaki’s point that the city should reconsider how and when it solicits input from its various committees on major projects.
Councilor Eric Range concluded the council’s discussion by saying that each of the sites “went through a pretty rigorous process, probably the most rigorous process I could think of in my time” at Madison.
He said the borough has honored its previous commitments to neighborhoods: “Bayley-Ellard will not be lit; Delbarton Park won’t have pickleball right next to someone’s backyard. So while no one site is probably perfect for everyone, I think we’re quickly reaching the point of getting closer to the most suitable sites. A lot of people probably won’t agree, but I think it’s part of the process, unfortunately.”