Two park developments in Los Banos, including one with nine pickleball courts, are proposed to start in 2024, according to Joe Heim, Los Banos Parks and Recreation Director.

At the January 23 quarterly meeting of the Los Banos Parks and Recreation Commission, Heim shared with commissioners detailed plans to add nine pickleball courts at the Ag Sports Complex on Mercey Springs Road, as well as plans for the new Sunrise Ranch Park.

The pickleball courts and the Sunrise Ranch Park plans will be presented to the Los Banos City Council at its Feb. 7 meeting and, if approved, will go forward immediately, with hopes of putting the projects out to bid this summer and completion by the end of 2024.

The pickleball courts will be situated just west of the Dog Park at the Ag Sports Complex. “This is a good fit for the courts,” said Heim. “The nine courts will fill an empty space there and complete the complex, which also includes two ball fields, a newly rebuilt concession stand and restrooms. It also has plenty of parking.

“Pickleball is becoming more and more popular among people of all ages,” Heim said, “and more pickleball courts were requested by residents at community meetings related to developing the city’s updated parks master plan.

“Local pickleball advocates requested eight courts,” Heim said, “so they could schedule tournaments that would draw players from other cities in the Central Valley. Fortunately, we had space for nine courts. We think this will be one of the premier pickleball facilities in the Central Valley.”

Having the courts at the Ag Sports Complex, distant from residential homes, will also solve the problem some residents raised about the sound of the paddles hitting the ball, which can be annoying to anyone living close to courts. This was one of the reasons the idea of developing pickleball courts in a city park on Pioneer Avenue, near a residential subdivision, was scrapped.

The Ag Sports Complex has already served as a place for tournaments, hosting many softball tournaments over the years drawing teams from other cities.

All three of the Parks and Recreation Commissioners present (Vice Chair Brad Gargano, Gary Munoz and John Spevak) were pleased with Heim’s plan and complimented him on identifying what they considered the best location for the courts.

Funding for the project, which Heim estimated to cost between $1.7 and $2.4 million, will come primarily from unspent federal ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds allocated to the city by the state during the COVID pandemic.

The Sunrise Ranch Park is located in a development just east of the Los Banos Junior High School. This park is approximately one acre and will feature some innovative ideas, including the city’s first permanent cornhole area, as well as a basketball half-court.

“This is a nice size park for a residential area,” Heim said, “and it should not only be good for residents but also for junior high students to use for healthy exercise.”

Funds for the park, which is larger than a city “pocket park” and smaller than a city “neighborhood park,” will come from Sunrise Ranch Park Development Fund.

“You can be proud of these two projects,” said Gargano. “They will serve our community for years to come.” Munoz added that he talks with many residents of Los Banos and “they say that staff members of Parks and Rec are doing a great job, not only planning for the future but also maintaining and improving our existing parks.”

Heim also presented to the commissioners very preliminary plans for the redevelopment of Colorado Park, which currently includes three ball fields, two tennis courts, a skateboard area, a concession stand and restrooms. The park, situated just east of the airport, is one of the oldest in Los Bans and needs repair and upgrading.

“These plans are currently conceptual and very preliminary,” Heim said. He expects to take them to the city council at its Feb. 21 meeting for discussion. Development would be further out than either the pickleball courts or the Sunrise Ranch Park.

If completed according to the current concept plan, the new Colorado Park will have three upgraded fields and two resurfaced tennis courts, an expanded and improved skateboard area, new restrooms and concession stand, as well as upgraded irrigation and electrical work.

“The preliminary plan for the new park responds to the needs many community residents aired during community sessions regarding an updated parks master plan,” Heim said, “including the need for a better place for skateboarders. The new skateboard areas will be about twice the size of the existing one.”

All three commissioners present expressed wholehearted support for the project. “I lived across the street from the park in the 1970s,” Spevak said, “Even then it needed improvements.”

Funds for the Colorado Avenue Park project, which according to Heim will cost between $10 and $15 million, are still to be identified.

“City staff plans to use the Park Development Fund as the primary source of funding,” Heim said.

The last project Heim discussed with the commission was an early concept for a “pump track” project that could be in the Meadowlands Park area. Heim explained that a pump track is designed for youthful bicyclists and consists of rolling and banked dirt. It’s called a pump track because cyclists gain momentum by pumping rather than pedaling.

“We still have a long way to go to make this into a definite project,” Heim said, “but I wanted to give the commission and early look at what the staff has been thinking about.”

The commissioners thanked Heim for pursuing this project that would appeal to young people in the community.

The Westside Express