Several acres in northern Lake Highlands off I-635 could become home to new pickleball courts as city officials begin the planning stages for a new recreational facility and green space.

The project, which is still being developed and could be included in an upcoming bond package, comes after years of debate about how to use the land at 12000 Greenville Ave. Dallas City Council member Kathy Stewart, who represents Lake Highlands, said the plan could uplift a part of the area known for high crime. It could also attract visitors from outside the city and more economic development.

“12000 Greenville and the surrounding area needs an investment that will attract new development,” Stewart said.

The overview

The project will be constructed on 3-4 acres of Dallas Water Utilities-owned land, which the department purchased in 2015. The department will use the rest of the land to build a new maintenance facility.

Crystal Ross, assistant director of the park and recreation department, said the recreational space would be free for residents to use and feature an outdoor green space or urban farm in addition to the courts.

Stewart said the pickleball project could serve as an “anchor” for the Greenville Avenue/Forest Lane part of Lake Highlands, encouraging developers to build in the area if the space garners high clientele. The ZIP code 75243, where the project site would be located, has the highest poverty rate in Lake Highlands at 21.7%, according to U.S. Census Bureau data. The area has also seen little to no new development in recent years.

“I really like the idea that it could attract people from outside of Lake Highlands,” Stewart said. “We need people coming in to eat at our restaurants and spend time in our neighborhood.”

The sport was chosen because of its growing popularity—USA Pickleball, the governing body for pickleball in the U.S., estimates nearly 5 million people play it annually.

Offering input

Lochwood resident Leslie Sakal, who plays pickleball recreationally, said she played tennis for several years but fully abandoned the sport in favor of pickleball in 2022.

“It’s just so much fun, and it’s a lot faster-paced than tennis,” Sakal said.

Lochwood resident Chris Holder, who plays the sport with Sakal, added that pickleball can be “very communal.” More than 100 people in his neighborhood have joined a Facebook group focused on pickleball, with some members playing together weekly. He said the sport can also be easy to access and learn for many people.

“It’s a lot easier to pick up [than tennis],” Holder said. “Within a couple hours, you can be playing a real pickleball game even if you’re not very good. It’s very accessible.”

The players said they believe adding pickleball courts in a declining area could help the community thrive.

Stay tuned

To fund the project, park and recreation officials are seeking an allocation of $1.3 million from the city’s proposed $1.1 billion bond program, which could be sent to voters in 2024.

City Council was briefed on a draft of the proposed bond program Dec. 6 and could decide in January or February whether to approve it for a May or November election. If the bond isn’t approved by City Council and/or Dallas voters, Stewart said she could use some District 10 money leftover from the 2017 bond to fund the pickleball project.

However, she said she feels confident in the 2024 bond allocation.

“I will fight very hard for the bond dollars that have been [proposed] for D10,” Stewart said. “I will always be open and willing to go after other funding if we can’t get the funding we need through the bond.”