Feature Article - March 2013
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Out of the Ordinary

Make Way for Some Unexpected & Unusual Sports

By Dawn Klingensmith

But accommodation only goes as far as budgets allow. Cricket is also popular among Latinos, but cities seldom provide a dedicated facility because of the cost.

To save money while catering to diverse clientele, "Wherever possible, you need fields and facilities to be as multiuse as possible," said Samuel Metott, athletics supervisor for the City of Plantation's Parks and Recreation Department in Florida. "And you have to make your argument that it's for the best. Baseball players hate having no grass in the infield; ours is clay because softball is also played there. It's not everyone's preference but it's best for our overall programming."

As was the case in St. George with pickleball, there comes a time when public demand drives action. And that's what will ultimately bring about action in Salt Lake City, according to editorialist John Rasmuson: "When will Salt Lake City get its first regulation pickleball court? Not in the foreseeable future" because there's no Capital Improvement Fund earmarked for that purpose, he writes. "In a perfect world, city government would be more nimble and better funded. That it is not should surprise no one. The truth of the matter is that the PLD (parks and leisure department) is not going to invest in pickleball courts until public pressure forces its hand."

Not all parks and rec departments wait until push comes to shove. Some take a more proactive approach to anticipating and meeting the community's programming needs by "identifying what's already happening in the community on a non-sanctioned basis and engaging those groups," said Penbrooke. "It's not about introducing new sports. It's more about what people are doing in the community underground or non-sanctioned and figuring out how to manage it. If you go back, that's how skateparks started."

More recently, an acrobatic physical discipline known as parkour uses public buildings and fixtures as obstacles and climbing apparatus. "A lot of agencies are realizing this is something that needs to be managed," which may lead to the development of parkour facilities in places where the sport is hot, said Penbrooke, adding that Meetup.com is a good place to look for and monitor up-and-coming sports like parkour.