PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – A Lake Oswego business owner is planning to help fill the void that was created when city councilors voted to close down the city’s only pickleball courts indefinitely.
Kent Drangsholt co-owns At The Garages Live Music Venue Eatery & Taphouse on Southwest McEwan Road with his wife Jami. At The Garages is a concert venue with a restaurant and bar.
It also has an attached antique mall, pool tables and a game room and by the end of February, Drangsholt hopes it will also have pickleball.
“I’m a business owner. When it comes to looking for opportunity, that’s where businesses can thrive. If you can satisfy the needs, wants and desires of the general public, you have a successful business,” he said.
And the pickleball players have made it very clear they want courts.
On Jan. 17, the Lake Oswego City Council voted 4-3 to shut down the eight courts at George Rogers Park after a year of neighbors complaining about the pop-pop or plinking sounds that come from people playing the sport.
The decision has left the approximately 500 members of the Lake Oswego Pickleball Club without a place to go in the city.
Drangsholt knew that if he built it – they would come. He finalized the decision on Friday, Jan. 27.
“You’re almost guaranteed success. So it was kind of a no-brainer,” he said.
While this will at least provide a place to play pickleball in the city, members of the Lake Oswego Pickleball Club said it’s not an ideal replacement for the courts in the public park. For starters, playing pickleball at At The Garages will cost money.
Drangsholt said access to the courts will be included in a monthly membership fee for access to the club. He expects the membership will cost about $54 per month. Members will get a discount on the fee required to play pickleball. The membership will also grant them discounts on restaurant menu items, drinks at the bar and on the music venue.
At The Garages will also only have two full-size courts and two so-called “dink courts.”
“That’s lovely that they’re adding that to their venue, but that’s not comparable,” said Liz Banks, a member of the Lake Oswego Pickleball Club. “Two pickleball courts at a music venue is not comparable to what we have at George Rogers.”
She added that the price would be a hindrance to many pickleball players.
“You have a lot of seniors on fixed income and that is also part of the impact of closing a public park,” she said.
Banks feels that free access to courts allowed her to meet a diverse group of players, something she believes wouldn’t be possible at a venue that charges people to play.
Drangsholt said he’s seen evidence of a large number of pickleball players in the southwest Portland metro area and hopes to cater to them. He’s played the sport before, not much, but looks forward to having it as a new entertainment option at the venue.
He’s already found contractors who will repurpose At The Garages’ outdoor shuffleboard court to become two pickleball courts and will put the “dink courts” in the covered courtyard. At The Garages already has outdoor lighting in these areas and guests will be able to play from 8 a.m. to midnight most days.
As for the sound – the issue that had neighbors near George Rogers Park so upset – Drangsholt said he isn’t concerned about it.
“There are no homes within I’d say almost a half a mile from us,” he said. “If it affects anybody, it affects the parking lot of Walgreens next door to us, and I don’t think they’re going to care.”
Drangsholt said he and his wife are all about helping the community and they’re moving fast on this project to help fill the pickleball court void.
The Lake Oswego Pickleball Club is still waiting to see if the city will go through with converting tennis courts at Westlake Park to pickleball courts. The site is being considered, but the process to convert them could take up to 10 months, the Lake Oswego Parks and Recreation Department said.
The pickleball courts at George Rogers Park will be converted to tennis courts.