Pickleball Pavilion?

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Pickleball Pavilion?
Pickleball playing occurring at Craneway Pavilion on Saturday, March 16, 2024 (All photos by Kathy Chouteau).

By Kathy Chouteau

A protest is planned at noon both Saturday and Sunday over Orton Entertainment’s installation of pickleball courts at Craneway Pavilion. 

Unidentified protest organizers are asking community members to don Rosie the Riveter gear and stand against what they say is a proposal by Orton, lessee of the Craneway, to turn the bayside venue into a pickleball club.

The protest will coincide with the “grand re-opening” of the Craneway pickleball courts this weekend.

Opponents of the apparent pickleball takeover of the Craneway argue the bayside venue should be used for community events, like Richmond’s “Rosie Rally” and “Third of July” celebrations. As leaseholder, Orton’s use of the Craneway is restricted under the California State Lands Commission to ensure public access, according to city officials.

Pickleball courts on Wednesday, March 13. 2024.

Pickleball supporters argue that the building isn’t used enough and that there will be opportunities for continued public use of the Craneway. Orton’s latest application to the city regarding its pickleball plans, posted online by former Richmond Mayor Tom Butt, claims its proposal does not violate the lease as the plans only alter décor and theme. The project “continues as a restaurant and event venue – there is no change in use,” Orton states.

The proposal calls for a 75,129 square foot restaurant and event space in which 27.5 percent of the premises is taken up by game areas, the majority for pickleball but also for other games like ping pong, billiards, cornhole and chess. Depending on demand, the facility would be open to the public from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday-Saturday.

Richmond City Councilmember Cesar Zepeda further reported online that the Craneway manager “expressed intentions to host events in the facility, including meetings, tournaments and special events, explaining that the game courts can be covered with carpets, as needed.”

City staff is reviewing the proposal to see whether it complies with the lease between the city and the leaseholder and other regulations, according to documents provided by Zepeda that offer updates on the project.