While having outdoor pickleball courts in any geographic area can be difficult at times, managing and maintaining pickleball courts in a climate such as Manatee County, Florida has its own particular set of challenges. With its subtropical climate, Manatee County experiences both extremes of heat and rain, requiring special attention for any outdoor recreational activity.
Jay Jaudon, the Recreation Director for Racquet Sports at Manatee County Sports and Leisure Services, addresses these challenges head on as evidenced by the G.T. Bray Recreation Center pickleball courts. The G.T. Bray Recreation Center features 20 pickleball courts, 14 of which are covered with a steel roof and feature large fans. Jaudon says of his intention to cover the courts at this new state-of-the-art facility, that they “have steel roof pavilions [at] the majority of [the elementary schools in the county] for kids to play sports and such under on the playgrounds and I thought it would be a great idea for pickleball.” This roofing is certainly a lifesaver for pickleball players looking to play outdoors in the warmer months.
Further, the covered courts at the G.T. Bray Recreation Center feature large fans to keep the air circulating and keep players more comfortable. In addition to drawing the hot air out from under the roof, “one of the great benefits of the fans is to deter birds from coming under the roofs.” This helps decrease the environmental distractions for players in outdoor settings. Finally, the fans help dry out the courts quickly after a rainstorm, which are frequent in South Florida’s climate. Jaudon recommends Big Ass Fans as they use a variety of their fans at the G.T. Bray Recreation Center.
In regards to why Jaudon decided it was important to leave six pickleball courts uncovered, he believes it best serves the Manatee County pickleball community by giving players options depending on the time of year. While most players want to play on covered courts during the hot summer months, often, players would prefer an uncovered court in the cooler months when the shade provided by a roof is not as important. Jaudon notes that uncovered “outside courts are better to see the ball. Sometimes [they] have glare issues playing under the roof.” This is admittedly one of the downsides to a covered pickleball court. However, at the G.T. Bray Recreation Center, they “have the best of both worlds.”
One of the benefits to having these covered courts is that it allows for a steady stream of players throughout the year despite the changing seasons. While the busiest months for Manatee County’s Sports and Leisure Programs have traditionally been November through April–due in large part to the increase in snowbird residents going south for the colder months–they have noticed they are “staying busy all year round” at the G.T. Bray Recreation Center since its opening in 2022.
Jay Jaudon would like to thank Matt Porter (former Recreation Division Manager), Steve Johnson (former County Commissioner), and Charlie Hunsicker (Director) for their efforts in making the Walton Racquet Center a world class venue and believing in his vision. Additionally, he would like to thank his father, Jeff Jaudon, who started the Walton Racquet Center in 1986. His efforts of growing racquet sports in the community will be unmatched. He is so grateful to have his father’s help with the design of the new complex.