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Fair Game


Tennis or pickleball…whose side are you on? No matter, issues locally appear to have been resolved

TJ headshot AugRecent times in the pickleball/tennis world around Newport Beach has drawn controversy on multiple fronts. As most everyone agrees, pickleball has turned out to be a force to be reckoned with, while arguably being the fastest growing sports craze in America.

But, don’t count tennis out just yet! Tennis players, although more reserved in their approach, have made it known locally that their sport is also worthy of protecting, especially from the encroachment by the rival pickleballers.

If you’ve been following the scene, we won’t call them wars, but there’s certainly been some good skirmishes.

First, land rights and ultimate control have been the major issues at The Tennis and Pickleball Club at Newport Beach. Ownership partners Bob O. Hill, on one side, and Brett Feuerstein and Ryan Chase, on the other, have been engaged in court, battling for leadership to provide future property and development direction.

That issue was finally resolved in recent days by arbitration, ultimately giving O. Hill and his 50% stake the controlling voice moving forward.

In question was the direction and ultimate buildout of the club/property. O. Hill backs Sean Bollettieri-Abdali, the present operator who has added in a huge pickleball component to an already existing well-run tennis facility.

Sean’s strong efforts will continue.

Furthermore, O. Hill has had plans to add a small resort hotel and perhaps several condos to the property, but not until the early 2030s.

That was being challenged by Feuerstein and Chase, who wanted to move in a different direction that included having talented local restaurateur Mario Marovic moving in to oversee and operate the club.

Still, as mentioned above, the judge ruled for O. Hill, who is considered the General Partner in the relationship and as thus, that is the direction it will proceed.

That being said, the issue continued on to the City Council last week seeking consideration for a long-term development agreement between O. Hill’s plan with the city.

There’s a problem, however, with long-term development agreements. The reason being is that they can potentially block or prevent other projects from occurring in a particular area of the city during the long waiting period because of other established limitation requirements on the books (think number of trips or square footage totals, for example). And, if the project then turns out not to be built, the city is the ultimate loser.

So, while O. Hill wanted his project pushed out to 10 or 15 years, the City Council, led by Mayor Noah Blom and Mayor Pro Tem Will O’Neill, balked. Councilmember Erik Weigand then offered a compromise while asking for a two-year agreement to push the matter forward.

What that in essence means, within that two-year period, O. Hill’s project would need to basically have shovels in the ground.

It’s something akin to the slang of getting on the pot or getting off.

We’ll have to see what happens and what the effects are.

Just down the street has been another pickleball/tennis concern at The Palisades Tennis Center. That property is half-owned by Russ Fluter and half-owned by the Hyatt Regency entity, while the club itself on top of the said property is owned by Eric Davidson.

From the Hyatt’s side, they were approached by Sean Bollettieri- Abdali (also mentioned above) to put pickleball on the tennis courts resting on their side of the property. Davidson objected, attempting to keep the club tennis only.

The Hyatt’s reasoning, however, was that pickleball would potentially be more attractive to their travelers/customers group.

As a result, one of those “skirmishes” ensued and moved to having both sides digging in. One wanting tennis, the other pickleball added in. The difference was, the one wanting pickleball controlled the available parking…that being the Hyatt.

After a number of go-rounds and threats, including a challenge before the city’s Planning Commission, a reasonable agreement was finally consummated. The Hyatt’s side will in fact get their pickleball courts, while tennis remains on the Palisades’ side, and parking once again will be made available to everyone, including the Palisades’ members.

Both sides have agreed to move forward with smiles on their face.

Gary Stougaard, repping the Hyatt ownership group said, “We feel we’ve reached a fair and equitable agreement.”

On the other side, Davidson added, “We are content with the resolution with the Hyatt and now we can get back to playing tennis and having fun.”

Moving forward, after months of contentious times between both pickleball and tennis seemingly throughout the city, it appears both sides will finally learn to tolerate the other.

So, whose serve?

• • •

The 17th Annual Keep the Promise Wine Tasting Benefit at Big Canyon Country Club took place in late September in support of The Wooden Floor and the numbers are now in. A very impressive $407,652 was raised throughout the evening, benefiting one of the nation’s foremost creative youth development nonprofits.

The Wooden Floor’s goal is transforming young people in low-income communities through the power of dance and offering access to higher education.

The evening, one of Orange County’s premier wine tasting benefits over the past 17 years, has grossed more than $4.3 million to support The Wooden Floor.

More than 400 bottles from 12 of the world’s top wines – all considered outstanding, with a rating of 96 points and above – were uncorked for a truly rare and extraordinary tasting experience during the evening.

• • •

A local fundraiser benefiting youth sports for those in need takes place just after the first of the year, but you’re encouraged to get your seats and tables now while the gettin’ is good.

Celebrated sports broadcaster Bob Costas will be on center stage interviewing iconic female athletes including Ann Meyers Drysdale, Janet Evans and April Ross at the Orange County Youth Sports Foundation’s annual banquet.

The event takes place at the Hyatt Regency Irvine on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2024.

“We are excited to have Ann Meyers Drysdale, Janet Evans and April Ross as part of our event this year. Their outstanding contributions to the world of sports and the Olympic legacy have left an indelible mark on the sports community,” said Michael Perisi, president of OCYSF. “This event is not just an evening of celebration but a testament to these athletes’ incredible dedication, perseverance and talent.”

For tickets to support this group, which raises money for sports-related programs and facilities for underserved and disabled youth in the OC, go to

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