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Tennis players not 'oppressed' when community centre allowed pickleball: B.C. judge

The head of the Victoria Regional Pickleball Association holds a ball and paddle in an April 2022 file image. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito) The head of the Victoria Regional Pickleball Association holds a ball and paddle in an April 2022 file image. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
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A group of Gulf Island tennis players who were forced to share the local courts with pickleballers were not "oppressed," a B.C. judge found while refusing to grant them exclusive use of the space.

The battle over the tennis courts began two years ago, as the sport of pickleball was surging in popularity – including on Mayne Island, with its small community of around 1,100 residents.

The dispute eventually landed in B.C. Supreme Court, with tennis players hoping to assert authority over the courts at the Mayne Island Community Centre – but ultimately missing their shot.

In a decision posted online this week, Judge Bill Basran found the matter "does not warrant judicial intervention."

The court heard pickleball players asked permission to use the community centre's courts in fall 2021, and were initially rejected – until several pickleball-supporting members were elected to the board of the Mayne Island Community Centre Society (MICCS) later that year.

The MICCS subsequently decided to allow equal time for both sports, with pickleball players and tennis players each getting 21 hours per week on the two courts.

"This may have been disappointing for members of the tennis community but it was presumably an expression of the democratic will of the voting members of the MICCS," Basran wrote in his June 30 decision.

The tennis players argued the community centre's edict was "unfair and unlawful," however, claiming the Mayne Island Tennis Association (MITA) had been promised control and ownership of the courts by way of an informal spoken agreement that had been in place for over a decade.

Basran acknowledged the tennis group played a key role in fundraising for the courts and getting them built, but didn't buy that the community centre ever intended to fully cede authority to the MITA.

The MITA is a "non-legal entity that does not have the capacity to own anything, let alone land," the judge wrote.

"Furthermore, the alleged transfer of the tennis courts to MITA probably would have violated the terms of MICCS’ bylaws and potentially jeopardized its status as a non-profit society," Basran added. "This is because one of MICCS’ purposes is to promote and foster community involvement in the process of developing the community centre for the benefit of the public. The public served by MICCS includes people who play pickleball."

Basran also dismissed the suggestion that tennis players had been oppressed by the board, or that any of the new members had a conflict of interest just because they had expressed an interest in pickleball.

"They were in no more a conflict of interest than previous board members who preferred tennis, some of whom were on the so-called 'executive' of MITA," he wrote. 

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