By Steve Plunkett

The city will hire a consultant to determine whether a pickleball center similar to Delray Beach’s Tennis Center should go on the recently donated Boca Golf and Tennis Country Club or the former Ocean Breeze golf course.
City Manager Leif Ahnell guessed the country club could accommodate 16 to 20 pickleball courts. But City Council member Andy Thomson liked the “clean slate” offered by Ocean Breeze.
The decision to explore pickleball opportunities came April 26 after an assessment of recreation needs presented to council members and Greater Boca Raton Beach and Park District commissioners by PROS Consulting.
Neelay Bhatt of PROS said Boca Raton and the district had an older population, with an average age of 48.6 years compared to the national average of 38.5 years.
And it will get older in coming years, he said, with people 55 years old and up growing from 45% of the population to 52% while those ages 18-54 decline from 41% to 36%.
The seniors 75 and up are more passive and self-directed when they recreate, he said. But the 55-74 age group does not fit the senior citizen stereotype.
“This is a very active adult population,” Bhatt said.
The community’s most pressing needs are for 12 more pickleball courts, 3.5 miles of multi-use trails, about 59,000 square feet of indoor recreation space and 66,000 square feet of indoor aquatic space, he said.
Bhatt also encouraged park officials to spend more on marketing the facilities and services they already offer. His pre-COVID survey of 432 city and district residents showed a high lack of awareness of programs, he said.
Sugar Sand Park is the No. 1 destination for park-goers, Bhatt said. “But for many of the smaller sites people don’t even know what they don’t know.”

In other business, city officials said they would ask the Friends of Gumbo Limbo to sign an agreement promising to give part of its donations to offset the nature center’s expenses. The not-for-profit group, which does not pay rent for its gift shop there, currently contributes about $300,000 a year but is not required to do so. 

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