City of Aspen Parks and Open Space Director Matt Kuhn shows renderings of the proposed pickleball and tennis facility to community members on Wednesday. Construction on the facility is planned to begin in 2024. 

Aspen’s pickleball community soon will have seven new courts of their own to play on, and their tennis-playing neighbors will get a new regulation-size court as well. 

The city of Aspen presented the design for the new pickleball and tennis facility at an open house-style event on Wednesday to update the public and the pickleball community on the plans. Last summer, the city began the process when local pickleball players spoke up about the lack of sufficient space for both pickleball and tennis to coexist at the current Iselin facility at the Aspen Recreation Center. 

“Right now, the courts behind us are actually just two tennis courts,” said Michael Tunte, landscape architect and construction manager for the Parks and Open Space department. “The one tennis court has been restriped for pickleball, and the other tennis court serves as sort of informal pickleball play. So we have four substandard pickleball courts and one mediocre tennis court.”

The small space makes for packed courts on sunny days, Aspen Pickleball Ambassador Karen Hawkes said. With people running back and forth past each other’s courts, there’s not a lot of room for foot traffic to flow. So when the players asked for more space, city staff began to look for a solution. 

“The Aspen Pickleball community is very excited to have expanded and rejuvenated courts here,” Hawkes said. “And we’re really happy to be working with the city to get these done so that we can continue to play here.” 

In addition to the new courts, the new location will feature a gathering space, bathroom facility and walk-up snack bar. Tunte said that’s the piece that will make the facility stand out as more than a typical pickleball court. 

“That’s a huge component of the pickleball community,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody, so there’s a seating area, there’s a shade structure and just those elements which elevate the overall design as part of our approach.” 

The project is currently in the design and land use application phase, and the city hopes that it will move into the approval process this summer. The city council will need to approve a contract with a firm to construct the facility. Tunte said he hopes that construction will begin in 2024. 

Hawkes said there are about 175 mostly local people who are on her email list, but she estimated that hundreds if not more people come through the facility each season to play pickleball. From full-time residents to second-homeowners and visitors, unless they belong to a club with a pickleball facility, the Iselin courts are the main place to play in Aspen. With the season beginning to pick up, the drop-in sign-ups already are filling up. 

“We have everybody playing there from middle school and high school kids up to octogenarians, and we’re all playing together and the courts are packed,” Hawkes said. “So on a drop-in, we could have anywhere between I would say 25 to 55, 60 people waiting to play, so there’s a ton of people cycling through here. When I travel, I always travel with my pickleball paddle, and wherever I am, I just show up at a drop-in and I can play, and that’s what we want for Aspen. We want to have the space and the courts to be able to do that.”  

Pickleball season drop-in times are available. Hawkes encouraged those with questions or interest in playing to email aspendink@gmail.com for more information.