Pickleballers will soon have more space to play throughout Chicago. Credit: Provided.

HUMBOLDT PARK — Humboldt Park’s namesake park is getting pickleball courts.

The Chicago Park District plans to restore the park’s tennis courts and add pickleball courts as part of the citywide Pickleball Mania program, which aims to establish 50 pickleball courts across Chicago by 2025, Park District spokeswoman Irene Tostado said.

Also under the project, crews will resurface the nearby ADA-accessible path and repair fences and gates, Tostado said.

The project is in its early stages, with Park District officials taking design feedback from neighbors through an online form. Community input will help determine the construction timeline, Tostado said.

Tostado couldn’t provide a total cost of the project, but said all 50 courts in the Pickleball Mania program, including those coming to Humboldt Park, are being funded with pandemic relief funds from the Chicago Recovery Plan.

A diagram of the pickleball courts and other improvements coming to Humboldt Park. Credit: Chicago Park District

Pickleball has taken off nationwide. The sport is a hybrid of tennis, badminton and ping pong that’s accessible to people of all ages and skill levels.

The Humboldt Park courts come as concerns mount over the poor state of the sprawling neighborhood park.

Neighbors are growing increasingly frustrated with the Park District and local officials for allowing trash and debris to pile up and neglecting to help the park’s homeless population, which has swelled during the pandemic.

One of the park’s public bathrooms has been closed for years. Fed-up neighbors and activists recently launched an online petition in hopes of convincing the Park District to reopen the bathroom, but the city agency so far hasn’t committed to a plan.

Neighbor Ashley La Fleur questioned why the Park District is moving forward with a plan to bring pickleball courts to the park while there’s been no movement on reopening the public bathroom.

“Anyone who uses the park, whether it’s a park-goer like myself, or our neighbors who are unhoused, could use those bathrooms,” La Fleur said. “I’m deeply concerned that they may be prioritizing opening pickleball courts over reopening the bathroom, which has been closed since before COVID.”

About 40 people experiencing homelessness live in Humboldt Park, way up from the pre-pandemic population. Credit: Mina Bloom/Block Club Chicago

Tostado, the Park District spokeswoman, said the city agency is in the middle of assessing the condition of the bathroom and details about a restoration project are “forthcoming.”

But according to 26th Ward Ald. Jessie Fuentes, the Park District said the bathroom in question has “severe structural damage” and repair work has been stalled for budgetary reasons.

Fuentes said the Park District hasn’t provided her office with any further information, including an estimated cost or construction timeline.

The alderwoman shares neighbors’ concerns that pickleball courts are being prioritized over more urgent park repairs.

“We do know that there are many existing park amenities in dire need of repair — the basketball court needs resurfacing and new hoops, the baseball diamonds need in-field grooming and updates to turf edges, the soccer fields haven’t had any updates or maintenance since they were opened, the beach has not been opened for three years, and the bathrooms are closed and need to be restored and opened,” Fuentes said in an emailed statement.

“If the Park District is investing in pickleball courts, I would ask that they invest in the critical needs of the park’s current amenities.”

Fuentes said she hasn’t decided whether or not she supports the pickleball courts and other upgrades and is waiting to review feedback from neighbors “in order to ensure the community’s voice is heard.”

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Logan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.orgnnLogan Square, Humboldt Park & Avondale reporterrnrnmina@blockclubchi.org Twitter @mina_bloom_