The battle over pickleball courts or tennis courts at SF's Stern Grove

In San Francisco, there was a match between tennis players and pickleball players Thursday night. 

Fans of the new sport said they need more courts and that Stern Grove is ideal. Tennis enthusiasts said this would be at their expense.

There was a spirited community meeting that was standing room only.

Speakers expressed their opinions about the options on the table.

Rec and Park officials said both tennis and pickleball are hugely popular.

Now, the battle is over whether Stern Grove should remain a shared space.  

Pickleball players were passionate and eager to talk about this fast-growing sport.

"I kind of view pickleball as life-sized ping pong," said Lillian Kim with the Pickleball Leadership Committee.

At Golden Gate Park's Tennis Center, there are dedicated pickleball courts. 

But fans of the new sport said they need more.

"Especially on the weekends, the queues to play can last 30 minutes to almost an hour," said Kim.   

Pickleball players want Stern Grove, which is undergoing repairs, to be home to 8 new courts dedicated solely to their sport.

Last year a water main leak caused flooding, damaging tennis courts there that were shared space with pickleball. 
Tennis players pushed back.  

"We want to make sure there are tennis courts for everyone who wants to play tennis," said Martha Ehrenfeld, Tennis Coalition of San Francisco Co-Chair.      

She said tennis too has grown in popularity during COVID.
Rec and park said there are currently 139 tennis courts citywide and pickleball has 59 with only 11 courts dedicated solely to the sport.

Hundreds packed into a community meeting to give input to Rec and Park about 4 options for what type of courts will go into Stern Grove. 

Only one option included tennis.

"We would rather find another solution than take tennis courts away from tennis," said Lois Anne Indorf with Tennis Coalition of San Francisco.

"Until pickleball, I've never seen as diverse a  community, racially, socially, age and economically ever," said Nate Valentine, a self-described addicted pickleball player.

One nonprofit group said it donated $108,000 dollars to resurface  the tennis courts at Stern Grove prior to the flooding.

"We don't support those courts being converted to pickleball permanently.  We'd like to see those courts reopened as tennis courts with pickleball striping," said Seth Socolow, executive director of San Franciscans for Sports and Recreation.  

The Rec and Park Commission will ultimately decide whether Stern Grove will be a place dedicated to pickleball only. 

No word yet on when a decision will be made.

But a Rec and Park officials said it will be soon because a lot of work has already been done on this matter.

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on Facebook @AmberKTVU,  Instagram @AmberKTVU  or Twitter @AmberKTVU