Vernon Pickleball Association members Norm Korol (front) and Sandy Glennie enjoy a game at the association’s courts at Marshall Field. The association is asking the city to honour a lease agreement to be the 24-7 operator of the courts. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)

Vernon Pickleball Association wants lease deal upheld

City of Vernon took over lease from Regional District of North Okanagan in 2018

The fact the City of Vernon holds a lease to the Vernon Pickleball Association courts at Marshall Field isn’t sitting well with the association.

Appearing as a delegation at Vernon council Monday, more than 30 of the hundreds of VPA members crammed into council chambers to watch association president Rob Irving ask the city that the lease and operator relationship agreement reached with the Regional District of North Okanagan be honoured.

The city took over Jan. 1, 2018 when parks responsibilities were transferred from RDNO to Vernon.

“The Vernon Pickleball Association’s perspective of maintaining a mutually beneficial relationship with the City of Vernon is of the utmost importance,” said Irving, who said past and current difficulties, in his opinion, boil down to communication.

READ ALSO: Vernon pickleball group to receive cash – if they want it

Irving explained that when the courts project was conceived, RDNO said the facility could be built for $1.4 million. The VPA countered its members could do it for $600,000, to which the RDNO agreed and contributed $300,000 in a grant to the project.

A grant agreement, said Irving, was not drafted but a lease was prepared and signed in June 2017 that stated the VPA was to design, construct, operate and maintain the courts.

READ ALSO: Paving the way for pickleball in Vernon

“It was clear the official intentions of the new relationship was the RDNO being the landlord, and the VPA the 24-7 lease holder and 24-7 operator (of the facility),” said Irving, who stated that when the lease was transferred to the city, “having the VPA assume the role of 24-7 operator is not the staff’s preferred solution,” and pointed out the city wants to rent out the facility to the public.

“The city’s intent is to rent out the courts and collect rental dollars when we don’t have organized sessions on the courts,” said Irving. “We leased the land, built the courts with financial help from RDNO and our landlord plans to sublet the lease-hold improvements when we’re not using them.

“Nowhere in the lease does it say the landlord has subletting rights and does not seem to be fair to all concerned from our perspective.

“We feel more like we’re being treated like profit-seeking developers with deep pockets rather than a partnership.”

Irving said VPA members contributed their own money to help build the facility, which opened in 2018, along with “sweat equity” and “emotional energy.”

“Some of the challenges were internal to club, we made our share of mistakes,” said Irving. “But the goal was achieved. It was all done with the understanding the VPA would have rights and responsibilities as tenant in accordance with lease signed in June 2017.”

Asked by Coun. Brian Quiring about its public access plans, Irving said a schedule needs to be set up, and arrangements need to be made for liability insurance.

“It’s in our best interest to provide public access,” he said.

The VPA is about to launch a campaign to raise funds for night lighting on the courts, and are looking into appealing two city requests to move a misplaced fire hydrant on the site, and add more parking.

As it was a delegation, council can’t discuss the matter until its next regular meeting April 23.

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