Locals protest opening of Craneway Pavilion pickleball facility

Locals protest opening of Craneway Pavilion pickleball facility
Photo/ Linda Hemmila

Richmond residents, dressed as Rosie the Riveters, protested the opening of the Craneway Pavilion pickleball facility at today’s opening day event.

Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon representing women who took on factory and shipyard jobs during World War II. Pickleball is a sport involving two or four players hitting a perforated, hollow plastic ball over a net using paddles.

The group protesting pickleball at the Craneway was an eclectic collection of political adversaries dressed as Rosies and united in opposition to pickling at the Pavilion.

Those protesting argue that a private pickleball club is replacing the beloved public events at Craneway, and the developers are charging ahead without the necessary approvals.

City “still has concerns” as pickleball opening looms
City Attorney David Aleshire speaking at the city council meeting Tuesday, said the city still has concerns about a pickleball sports-themed bar that has been installed at Richmond’s Craneway Pavilion, which plans to open its doors on Saturday amid calls for protest. Aleshire confirms there have been modifications to

Sue Wilson and Jamin Pursell organized the protest, which asked pickleball players to find somewhere else to play and to tell the Craneway’s leaseholder, Orton Development, they wouldn’t cross a picket line to play pickleball.

Wilson said she was really happy with Saturday’s protest and proud of the people who, despite the bad weather, put on their Rosie gear to help save the Craneway.

“We were able to talk to hundreds of pickleball players, and many of them agree with us that this space should be used for more than just pickleball,” Wilson said. “I think they can help put pressure on Orton Development and tell them to work with the city rather than ignore the law.”

Photo/ Linda Hemmila

North and East resident Felix Hunziker, who was also dressed as a Rosie, said he was trying to preserve some of the public use of the public building.

“Right now, there is no public use that is going to be accommodated,” Hunziker said. “There have just been vague promises from the developer. Nothing has been put in writing. If you go to their website under events, the only thing listed there is large group pickleball rentals.”

Hunziker challenged Craneway Pickleball’s claims the courts only covered 30 percent of the building when most of the floor was covered by pickleball courts.

“They have completely covered the entire space. They claim the flooring is removable and reversible, and it is obviously glued down,” Hunziker said. “They’ve just been deceitful and can’t be trusted.”

Also at the protest were former Richmond mayor Tom Butt and his son Andrew, both outspoken critics of the project.

Photo/ Alexander Hemmila

In a recent email newsletter, Butt said a lack of institutional memory and motivation to avoid confrontation has resulted in an incomplete and misleading staff report for the next Richmond City Council meeting.

The city anticipated uses in the Craneway that never happened, including a large display area, which would feature public displays by the Richmond Museum, and the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center, according to Butt.

“The Ground Lease for the Craneway was executed December 9, 2004, and allows “any lawful use consistent with the DDA and the uses permitted under the Public Trust Easement.” The “any lawful use” clause also restricts the uses to those allowed in the CUP,” Butt said.

Photo/ Linda Hemmila

Inside the building, hundreds of pickleball players were there to play on the new courts, shop at the pro shop, or enjoy some food, including Walnut Creek pickleball player Danny Wong, who was impressed by the facility and loved the views and courts.

“At first, I was questioning how this kind of temporary mat will be, but it is actually very nice. It bounces well, and it also has grit, so it takes a spin,” Wong said. “It is a very nice indoor facility. I think when it is raining a lot of people will definitely come here.”

Darlene Vendegna, a pickleball coach, said the new venue includes a sports-themed restaurant and bar with 72,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor dining and event space with 12 pickleball courts, ping pong, and an array of other activities.

I'm so excited to be one of the coaches for this great facility in Richmond. I hope you'll come join us, the views are great and so is the food,” Vendegna wrote online.

The protest organizers will be back at the Craneway on Sunday at 8:45 a.m. and noon and invite you to join them.

Videos/ Sophia Hemmila

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