Dare Commissioners allocate $500K for pickleball courts

By on June 17, 2023

County facing demands for more playing field space

Scott Garber says there are now 250 active local pickleball players. (Shutterstock)

Dare County is putting half a million dollars toward creating new pickleball courts, but it remains to be seen where the courts will be built and how many will be constructed.

Pickleball is a rapidly growing sport across the country and Dare County has similarly seen a spike in interest in recent years, officials say. The sport is played with a perforated plastic ball and paddles, and it combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.

During its June 5 meeting, the Dare County Board of Commissioners approved the $500,000 budget amendment and capital projects ordinance by a 6-0 vote, with Commissioner Jim Tobin participating virtually. Board Chairman Bob Woodard left the meeting prior to reaching this part of the agenda.

Commissioners allocated the pickleball funding during their April 25 budget workshop, County Manager Bobby Outten told the Voice in a follow-up interview.

The June 5 vote was “the formality of adopting a budget amendment for the general fund to move $500,000 over to capital projects fund,” Dare County Finance Director David Clawson stated during the meeting.

The board awarded a professional services contract of $41,775, which is part of the overall $500,000 budget, to Albemarle and Associates, which will complete project surveying, engineering and construction management.

Dare County Project and Procurement Manager Dustin Peele said that one proposed location for the courts is off West Satterfield Landing Road in Nags Head and that Outten was also looking into another potential location.

“I’m glad to hear that, because there’s some real issues with one of those sites kind of cramping into the soccer fields,” Tobin said, in reference to the West Satterfield location.

Outten told the Voice this week that he had general discussions about a potential location on the beach that he didn’t yet want to name publicly, “and we’re supposed to talk into the details next week.”

If the courts were to be built off Satterfield Landing, he said, they wouldn’t use any fenced-in field space, but instead, part of the grassy area beside the parking lot that is used for an “overflow” practice area and for a practice for smaller kids who don’t need a full field.

Members of the soccer community have expressed opposition to any part of that space being taken away, citing an already clear lack of field space, while pickleball players have asserted a need for more courts.

“There’s competing demands, and they’re both legitimate, so we’re trying to find a way to meet the needs of both demands,” Outten said, adding that wherever the courts end up, they will be outdoor courts, and there should be at least four of them.

Scott Garber, president of the nonprofit OBX Pickleball Group and Dare County ambassador for USA Pickleball, said that he hopes to see eight to 12 courts, which would allow tournaments to take place and help the area become more of a shoulder-season destination.

“I’m ecstatic that they approved the money for this calendar year,” Garber said, expressing appreciation for Woodard’s support and work toward the funding.  Garber said he’s seen the area’s pickleball community grow from 25 players in 2017 to 250 active local players. Another 400 players also receive the group’s newsletter.

With the recent growth in the county’s population, the demand for recreation opportunities has outgrown the county’s sports facilities, Garber noted. Other local sports communities have similarly expressed hopes of bringing tournaments here.

“Everybody across the board needs to work together to make things happen,” he asserted. “Lacrosse, soccer, baseball, volleyball—everybody who has a voice out there needs to unite and work together…and go to our county and community leaders, our town leaders, and make this a six-town-Dare County project.”

“We’re always looking for more field space, but our opportunities are limited…the land cost is so expensive that it makes the project very difficult to do,” Outten told the Voice. He pointed to recent county recreation expenditures of $800,000 to light the fields behind the First Flight Elementary and Middle schools, $60,000 put toward the baseball fields in Kitty Hawk and $50,000 for soccer field and locker room improvements on Hatteras.



  • Dr Rob Jr

    I am a pickleball fan and player, but think this is a waste. For one, the cost of building courts is outrageous right now, you might be able to get 5-6 courts for that money once you factor in lighting, fencing, etc.

    There are already indoor courts 4-5 days a week (3 or 6) depending on the time of year, plus 2 outdoor (with capability to add 4 more at the KDH rec center. You have subdivisions and communities converting or building courts (SS, Duck, Pine Island) plus pay for play places like Westside Club and Duck Woods Country Club (that is building four courts).

    I would rather have the taxpayer money spent on attracting physicians and other medical staff so I don’t have to drive to Chesapeake for routine physicals and eye appointments.

    Monday, Jun 19 @ 7:52 am
  • Steven

    What a disgrace to the community and residents..


    Monday, Jun 19 @ 8:44 am
  • MoneyWasted

    Too bad that money isn’t going to the COLA for Dare County employees. The BOC and Outten are breaking promises!

    Monday, Jun 19 @ 10:13 am
  • Henry

    The people on Hatteras Island pay taxes too! It would be nice to have an additional employee for the Fessenden Center to keep it open later in the evenings and on the weekends so our youth have positive opportunities. I say “pickle them balls “ and “ pickle” those Commissioners next election cycle!

    Monday, Jun 19 @ 6:07 pm
  • Smokey

    We need health care and employees, not more courts that are used on a limited basis. Do something constructive. Looks like from these comments that most should not run for re-election.

    Monday, Jun 19 @ 6:42 pm
  • Frank

    @Mark Jurkowitz, any chance to get members of the Board to reply here, since there seems to be overwhelming opposition to their little idea. Are any of them willing to face the public and defend their decision on this? Do any of them have the guts to face the public on this?

    Monday, Jun 19 @ 9:52 pm
  • Justin

    New courts? Next election can’t come soon enough. Have you seen all the courts and fields now that’s these commissioners have let go to waste?

    Tuesday, Jun 20 @ 5:23 am
  • Another Captain

    I don’t play pickle ball or have any friends that do, so I’m not for spending money on the courts. But if we decide that as a county we should spend 500k for actual pickles for every citizen then I strongly support it.

    Tuesday, Jun 20 @ 8:34 pm
  • Mark Jurkowitz | Outer Banks Voice

    Personally Captain, I’m a huge fan of the half sour ones.

    Tuesday, Jun 20 @ 9:55 pm
  • James

    These comments are very revealing. Bottom line: if there are things you would like to see or have done in the community, become active. Show up to meetings and be an advocate. The court of public opinion isn’t going to move the needle. You actually have to show up and voice your concerns.

    Wednesday, Jun 21 @ 9:33 am
  • Pat

    Sure wish the county could find some funds to re-open soccer fields that aren’t being utilized, maybe more state high school championships would be coming our way.

    Wednesday, Jun 21 @ 10:39 am
  • Rhett

    Our kids don’t have text books in our schools, no real community out door basketball courts, no affordable housing, but yeah lets allocate half a million dollars for more pickleball courts.

    Sunday, Jun 25 @ 4:24 pm