COA nears completion of pickleball court at TR center

STURGIS — A long-awaited pickleball court at a park behind the St. Joseph County Commission on Aging’s (COA) Rivers Enrichment Center in Three Rivers could soon be open to the public.

In her director’s report during Wednesday’s COA board meeting in Sturgis, COA Executive Director Pam Riley told the board the concrete multipurpose court is nearing completion, with painting the last thing to get done.

The court was one aspect of a 2019 crowdfunding campaign through the Patronicity website that raised $50,000 with a $50,000 match from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which created a new atrium and public park with trails and a pickleball court on the center’s property. The COVID-19 pandemic caused some of the projects, such as the pickleball court, to be delayed, with the project close to being wrapped up.

Despite being nestled behind the center, the court will be open to the public once it opens. Riley said that aspect was something that was part of the original crowdfunding campaign in 2019 to raise funds for the project.

“We really want our court to be able to be part of the community, and that was part of the Patronicity campaign. It’s not just for older adults, but for the community,” Riley said. “Even though it’s situated in a particular location, it’s open to anyone of any age.”

However, Riley said due to increased costs of the project over time, the total amount to complete the court was $5,000 more than originally anticipated. She said she’s looking for additional donations to cover the excess amount, as they can’t use millage money to pay for the work.

“We have several donors already, but we’re still shy about $5,000,” Riley said. “We will have it in our August newsletter and put out a radio spot asking for some additional donations. No donation is too small, even if it’s a dollar or a quarter.”

When asked by board chair Deborah Davis if the COA could potentially go to the St. Joseph County United Way for a one-time funding request, Riley said they probably wouldn’t do it just yet. The Three Rivers Area Community Foundation and the Sturgis Foundation wouldn’t be options either, Riley added, since TRACF already contributed to the original Patronicity campaign, and because of the fact it’s situated in Three Rivers, it’s out of the Sturgis Foundation’s range.

Later in discussion, as a way to reach out to the community with the courts, Riley said they are looking to have a newly-formed pickleball league in the Three Rivers community use the courts for matches at specific times. Board member Sarah Apwisch wondered about that, saying she thought they might be reaching out since there’s not enough spaces in the city for pickleball and was concerned about the league blocking out times to use the court, but Riley said after speaking with the league’s director they have no issue with letting the league use the court.

“We’d carve out our timeframe of when we would have our reservations for that court for our members, but anything after 2 p.m., there’s not a whole lot going on at either center,” Riley said. “I think we’d be able to work something out to have anybody use it.”

Board member Pat Dane, who is on the board of the Armstrong Park sports complex, which also lets the league block out times, said the times blocked out are in early mornings, as early as 7:30 a.m. and usually go until 11. However, she said, if someone outside the league shows up, they are “more than willing” to let them play on the court.

Riley said there would “be a path” to figuring things out down the line with the pickleball league, which may be discussed in the future.

In other business…

  • The board welcomed Lorraine Bolley of Sturgis to the COA’s board, one of two new board members to be recently appointed by the St. Joseph County Board of Commissioners. Bolley has previously served on the Doyle Center Board, the Maple Towers Board, and acted as a church treasurer. Phil Kline of Three Rivers, the other new appointee, was not in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting.

Robert Tomlinson can be reached at 279-7488 ext. 22 or robert@threeriversnews.com.

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