PITTSFIELD — A plan to bring pickleball to Springside Park will likely break ground this summer — but when the final lines are painted at the new complex, there will be fewer courts and amenities than originally planned.
The Parks Commission voted unanimously on Tuesday night to approve the pared down final plans for a pickleball complex. The complex, which will neighbor the Doyle Softball Complex and Berkshire Hills Country Club, has been scaled back from eight courts to six courts.
The final plans show how builders will create the new sporting complex from the flat patch of grass near the water tower off of Benedict Road. Six pickleball courts, a spectator area with viewing benches and a shade structure, a welcome plaza and a parking lot will be constructed in the existing field.
Each court will be divided by short fencing and there will be perimeter fencing with noise dampening mats to dampen the sound of game play for neighbors along Bossidy Drive.
City officials have made compromises on the number of trees planted, the type of restrooms and parking lot design in favor of lower costs.
The current plan calls for a gravel parking lot, rather than an asphalt one, with 23 spaces and two handicap-accessible van spaces. Accessible portable toilets will meet the facility’s need for bathroom options, and designs now call for four trees to be planted around the complex rather than 16.
Jim McGrath, the city’s park, open space and natural resource program manager, said that rising materials costs are to blame for the change of plans.
“Every time we look to gather cost estimates it always seems that our engineers and architects are like we’re still in this volatile market and you can’t really predict well what’s happening with [costs],” he said.
Unpredictable material costs are just the latest hurdle in this project’s history.
Originally proposed in 2019, city officials faced strong backlash from residents and the Springside Park Conservancy over the placement of pickleball courts in the park. City leaders tried to secure a variety of funding options to cover the cost of designing and building the courts but ultimately backed away from the project.
That was until early 2022 when Mayor Linda Tyer approached McGrath to ask him to start looking for potential sites for a series of pickleball courts. Tyer’s capital improvement plan for fiscal year 2023 included $500,000 for the construction of pickleball courts. The plan indicated that the $500,000 would be taken from the city’s $40.6 million in American Rescue Plan money.
With funding secured, Tyer appointed a site search committee. The committee spent last summer reviewing several options before settling on the location in the northwest corner of Springside Park.
McGrath toured the location with the park conservancy and got the group’s support on the site. In November, the Parks Commission voted unanimously to recommend the mayor use $500,000 in ARPA money for the project.
But when city officials sat down with Berkshire Design Group, out of Northampton, to design the project they realized the expenses for the proposed project had changed.
McGrath said that costs for asphalt in particular have skyrocketed and quickly outpaced the funding for the project. He said the cost estimate for the working plan came in at about $850,000.
“That really necessitated the reduction of the project scope,” McGrath said. “We’ve been very carefully looking at what we can reduce without compromising the integrity of what we’re trying to do.”