The Town of Middletown is formally pursuing new pickleball courts in the community.
At a recent meeting, the Town Council approved seeking grant funding from the state Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) to build up to six courts at the town’s John Clarke Park at 127 John Clarke Road across from Silva Lane.
Town Administrator Shawn J. Brown said the estimated cost of the project is about $733,000. He said up to $400,000 of that total could potentially be covered by the state grant money. The remainder could be offset by funds in the operating budget and/or existing open space bond proceeds, Brown said.
To assist with the effort, Brown said the town was actively working with the YMCA of Newport County to see if a partnership could be worked out that’s mutually beneficial to the community and the Valley Road nonprofit.
“We’ve heard the requests for more pickleball courts in Middletown,” Brown said. “It’s a fun activity and gets people of all ages going and active, something we definitely encourage through pickleball or any number of fun, family friendly opportunities here in our community.”
Dubbed the fastest growing sport in the United States, the pickleball craze hit Middletown in a serious way a couple years back — and has grown steadily since.
Recently, the town reworked the multi-use courts at Howland Park at 10 Third Beach Road. Now, the popular family park includes a shared space for pickleball, available on a first come, first served basis during daylight hours.
Brown said one selling point of John Clarke Park for pickleball is the town already owns the land for the courts.
Another is the fact it’s not near any homes, but is in the heart of the Aquidneck Corporate Park across the street from BankNewport headquarters. In other communities, some homeowners have complained the sound from pickleballing is loud, annoying and can hurt home values.
There’s also plenty of nearby parking and the active recreational activity fits squarely within the YMCA’s mission, Brown said.
In coming weeks, Brown said town staff would work on finalizing an application to RIDEM for the open space funding. Typically, RIDEM announces its grant recipients in the springtime, Brown said.
It was not clear at the meeting what Middletown would do concerning new pickleball courts should the state money not come through.
Heading into budget preparation season, Brown has made it clear to town staff — and the community itself — that the Fiscal 2025 totals would be extremely tight on new spending. As part of a recent message to the community, Brown has asked all department heads to keep their budget requests to 2 percent — or less.
At the same time, Brown has also said the council has made it clear that Middletown continues to need to move forward in a positive direction with its schools, the town and community as a whole.
“I think everyone can agree that new pickleball courts would be a welcome asset to our inventory of recreational spaces in Middletown,” Brown said. “Like everything else, the big question is how we’re going to pay for it when there are already so many competing interests. That’s why the state DEM money and partnership with the YMCA are so vital here and could help push this project over the goal line.”
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