A fire has completely destroyed the pickleball equipment storage facility in Memorial Park, an extremely popular location for Santa Monica’s pickleball-playing community. Up until recently, this was among the few places the public could play the fast-growing sport.
According to the Santa Monica Fire Department, crews responded to a reported outside fire at 1401 Olympic Blvd at about 1:14 a.m. on Monday, 25 September. Crews found the storage area and nearby tennis fence on fire. Fire crews quickly extinguished the fire. There were no reported injuries and the cause of the fire was undetermined after the investigation.
Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) Lieutenant Erika Aklufi said the investigation is ongoing with arson being considered a possibility. The park is home to 16 pickleball courts in a hybrid setup with four tennis courts.
Ho Nguyen, co-founder of the Santa Monica Pickleball Club, said the process of clearing and repairing was set to begin.
“I hope that they find who is responsible, if it is arson, because there was a lot of equipment in there and it all needs to be replaced. I’m just keen to see it get repaired, fixed and everything replaced as soon as possible,” said Andrew Gomez, Vice Chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission.
The damage was absolute, with nothing left of any of the equipment, including nets, loaner paddles, signage, balls and so on. The incident leaves many residents with nowhere to play — but, the Santa Monica pickleball community is rallying together.
Jonathan Neeter, owner of the Pickleball Center at 2505 Wilshire, told the Daily Press that they plan to hold an impromptu open play fundraiser this evening (Monday) and have even received a commitment from a key pickleball kit manufacturer, Selkirk Sport, to help replace the destroyed equipment.
Stephanie McCaffrey, co-founder of PicklePop, the indoor center located at 1231 Third Street, said that she and co-founder Erin Robertson were supposed to be looking at possible expansion sites this morning, when they got the call about the fire.
“We just wanted to do what we could to help, so we offered free courts through Friday before 5 p.m. We don’t have many open spaces at night due to pre existing reservations and corporate events, but when we do, it’s $5 per person to come play tonight,” she said.
“We were also set to host a networking event in partnership with the Santa Monica Pickleball Club a week from today on Monday [October 2] and we’ve now changed that from a networking event to a fundraiser where all proceeds including ticket sales will go to the pickleball club,” McCaffrey says, adding that other fundraising activities will be taking place all evening.
“We’ve also posted the details on the Santa Monica Pickleball Facebook group page and it will be on our website [picklepop.co] If anyone wants to reserve a court though, instead of going to our website, they should email Eric@picklepop.co,” McCaffrey says. “We’re handling these reservations manually, because there’s going to be a lot of demand and Eric wants to make sure people don’t double book.”
Mary Pat Faley, co-founder of Pickletown at 1431 Lincoln Blvd, said they were working in connection with PicklePop, sharing resources, offering lessons and contributing to the fundraiser scheduled for October 2 to be held at the Promenade location, with the hope of possibly planning more.
“This is why Pickleball is such a great sport, because it’s about community. And it spans generations and it spans skill levels. So what we’re excited to do at PicklePop is turn what we feel is a tragedy into a positive and show the rest of the world how powerful that community is when it needs to come together,” McCaffrey says.