EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) – After months of debate, pickleball in Wesselman Park is taking another step forward with the approval of a construction contract. That contract was awarded to Arch Construction by the Evansville Parks Board. The unanimous vote means construction on the $2.6 million project will soon begin, featuring 16 pickleball courts in an open space next to tennis courts in the park.

“We’ve done some research and there’s about 1,600, average, players a week,” says Deputy Mayor Steve Schaefer. “And over 61,000 a year playing pickleball. So, just in our area, to have 61,000 people playing anything is impressive.”

Since it’s proposal in late 2021, pickleball at Wesselman has been highly debated. Opponents argue construction would harm trees and wildlife while creating noise and light pollution for nearby neighborhoods. Supporters have stated wildlife and surrounding nature would not be disturbed.

“Everything that we do, we are wanting to enhance and improve Wesselman Park, not destroy it,” explains Schaefer. “So, while we may disagree to the core on some issues, we love the park, it’s an iconic park, it needs investment and that’s what we’re doing.”

“I just got back from walking 5 miles over there,” says Althea West, an Evansville resident against the project in Wesselman Park. “Nice and peaceful. That’s done. That is done. The value will go down on my home, I live a half block from there.”

Kate Lyons, a supporter of the project, says, “There’s a good chance this could increase property values because people are looking to play pickleball when they move into communities.”