By Kathy Chouteau
Richmond’s burgeoning pickleball community suffered what its ambassadors are calling a “crippling blow” after thieves stole their entire equipment arsenal from Booker T. Anderson Park.
The theft was discovered Wednesday, when players arriving for a weekly session discovered the group’s 300-pound, bolted down, metal lockbox had been stolen from the park’s tennis courts. Missing along with it were six pickleball nets, ten new paddles, 20 pickleballs, a whiteboard, first aid kit, and additional supplies.
The pickleball supplies had been purchased and installed at the park prior to the Aug. 14 kickoff of the Richmond Pickleball Program. Funding for the supplies came from a $5,000 Chevron Richmond Environmental & Community Investment Agreement (ECIA) grant (supported by Richmond Friends of Recreation as EBPB’s fiscal sponsor); a $1,000 Richmond Rotary grant; a $250 grant from the USA Pickleball Assn.; and other donations, per the pickleball ambassadors.
The funding also paid for the painting of pickleball lines for six courts across the two tennis courts at the park and free training sessions—which, to date, more than 200 people have attended.
Local pickleball ambassadors are currently setting up a Go Fund Me benefiting Richmond Pickleball; in the meantime, those wanting to lend their support can make a tax-deductible donation via Venmo to [email protected] or send a check payable to East Bay Pickleball Association (a 501(c)(3) organization), to East Bay Pickleball Association, c/o Darlene Drapkin, 6056 Felix Ave., Richmond, CA, 94805. To be notified when the Go Fund Me goes live, contact the aforementioned email address.
The group is currently considering its next step, such as whether to replace all the portable nets and lockbox, which would potentially be subject to another theft, or to pivot to the more secure and costly option of installing permanent pickleball nets, which would be less vulnerable to theft.
Pickleball is a burgeoning sport for all ages that is a combination of tennis, badminton and Ping Pong using lightweight paddles. The team sport can be played indoors or outdoors and takes place on a badminton-sized court using a perforated plastic ball (similar to a wiffle ball) and small paddles. Best of all? You get to call yourself a “pickler” if you play it.
Darlene Drapkin, the U.S.A. Pickleball Association Ambassador who secured the grant to add pickleball lines at the Booker T. Anderson courts, said Richmond needs a dedicated court that doesn’t share space with tennis so that storage boxes won’t be needed. In the meantime, Drapkin encouraged pickleball enthusiasts to continue visiting the Richmond park.
“Booker T. Anderson Park is still open for play, and bring your own nets,” she said.