Sports

Harder to find a free racquet court or golf time in Metro Vancouver

Sunrise tennis games, last-second tee times becoming the norm if you want a guaranteed spot

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“Good luck finding an empty court here,” the comment reads, regarding the public Derek Inman tennis courts in North Vancouver.

Consider Ted Debicki and his son Matt among the fortunate.

“It’s hard to find a court here. This morning we got lucky,” he said. “Usually, you just start to play and people are already waiting for you to finish.”

Matt added: “(Municipalities) keep putting up more soccer fields, but there seems to be fewer tennis courts.”

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And finding an open court anywhere on weekends or after 5 p.m. on weekdays? You’re dreaming, Ted said.

Father and son were playing mid-morning on a weekday. The Derek Inman courts are the only ones in North Vancouver with lights — although the lights haven’t worked for months now.

“Your game is just beginning and you can hear the person’s breath behind you,” Ted said. “‘How long are you going to be? How long are you going to be? Are you almost done?’

“We’ve just started.”

As the elder Debicki pointed out, to become a top-notch tennis player you need to start young, not wait until you’re 12 years old.

His son, for instance, began at five and represented B.C. as a junior player.

“But at four or five, kids don’t have the patience to wait around for a court,” he said.

All over Metro Vancouver, tennis players are in the same pickle — as are pickleball players in many municipalities. Although, West Vancouver is one spot where there is no shortage of pickleball courts, one player said.

Signs at Vancouver courts advise that if other players are waiting, then limit your game to 30 minutes, and non-tennis activities such as in-line skating, cycling and skateboarding are banned during tennis season (May 1 to Oct. 31).

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Private lessons are also banned.

You pretty much need to get up with the sun to guarantee an open court. Or play in the rain.

Vancouver boasts more than 180 tennis courts spread across the city. Many are in pristine locations.

Stanley Park is home to 21 tennis courts, and six more at Beach Avenue operate as pay courts that can be reserved ahead of time.

Kits Beach has 10 tennis courts, Queen Elizabeth Park has 18, and Jericho Beach has four.

The Vancouver Park Board was unable to provide statistics on how often courts are used and whether there has been a spike in their popularity.

The courts operate on a first-come, first-served basis and do not require registration, a spokeswoman said.

“As part of VanPlay, we are developing a sport court strategy to assess usage, demand, and court quality citywide,” she said.

In part, VanPlay states, there is a need to improve the quality of tennis and basketball courts, and to increase the number of volleyball, pickleball, and multi-sport spaces.

“The current outdoor court inventory is heavily weighted toward tennis, basketball and beach volleyball. … The demand for other court sports, such as ball hockey, roller hockey, bike polo, box lacrosse and padel has not yet been assessed.”

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Among the goals stated in VanPlay are increasing the supply of pickeball and other courts and partnering with the Vancouver School Board to improve public access to school courts, collecting data on court use, and create an outdoor sport court management plan to examine access, booking and demand management.

Vancouver public golf courses do offer numbers and they show a high demand for tee times.

Compared to pre-COVID in 2019, the number of rounds played at Fraserview, Langara and McLeery golf courses has jumped almost 40 per cent to more than 232,000 last year, and is matching those numbers so far this year.

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