Should the public be allowed to use the new pickleball courts at Linn-Benton Community College in Albany during the Covid era? That question has become moot for now because the courts won’t be finished this year.
The city of Albany is paying for the courts, and local players had hoped to be able to use them when the weather allows during the winter. But the college does not intend to open the courts to the public while Covid regulations are in effect.
That’s no longer much of a conflict now. The city told the college Tuesday that the courts won’t be completed this month after all.
“The final green surface needs to be redone because it got wet before it dried.” city facilities maintenance supervisor Tom Valentino told me. “They weren’t expecting the heavy mist we had the day after it was painted. We don’t expect dry warm days for the rest of the year to complete the surface.”
For about $330,000 in park funds, a contractor for the city of Albany is building 12 pickleball courts on what used to be four tennis courts on the college’s main campus in South Albany. Under a contract between the city and college, the courts are to be open for public use when they’re not needed by the college.
The college’s executive team, however, adopted a set of policies in August to govern its operations during the Covid crisis. Among other things, the policies include this: “Allow campus spaces and buildings to be open only for official college business. Campus spaces and buildings will not be open to the general public.”
LBCC officials Sheldon Flom, vice president for finance and operations, and Jennifer Boehmer, executive director for institutional advancement, explained the college administration’s reasoning in a Zoom conversation with me on Tuesday afternoon.
The gist of it was that the college wants to do everything possible to be allowed to reopen its regular programs. With that in mind it is being extra careful to observe all state regulations and guidance to prevent or slow the Covid spread.
And while there may be no fundamental physical difference between the new courts and city parks that have been reopened for a while, LBCC points to its main mission — education, not recreation — as the reason for taking a different approach. (hh)