Des Moines Parks and Recreation is looking to give a facelift to the Birdland Sports Complex, with the price tag of $1.73 million.
The complex currently includes amenities that serve neighborhood and city-wide recreation needs for the North side of Des Moines.
However, the current state of the complex is less than ideal: the tennis courts in disrepair can’t sustain the growing popularity of both the sport and the current pickleball craze, and Des Moines falls short of the national average of basketball courts.
With a series of improvements, Des Moines Parks and Recreation wants to bring Birdland up to speed and serve the community that utilizes the park.
“Birdland sports park serves 2,588 persons in a 10-minute walk of this park,” Des Moines Parks and Recreation Director Ben Page said in an email to the Register. “However, the Birdland Sports Park courts are considered a regional draw because of their ability to support larger groups, events and programs, as well as having the ability to support complementary improvements such as sport court lighting which greatly extend their accessibility and programming hours for the public.”
At the Des Moines City Council meeting Nov. 6, a series of improvements to the Birdland Sports Complex were approved to go out to bids. This means the project needs to be approved by the Des Moines City Council again.
Approval pending, the project is expected to break ground in the Spring of 2024 and is expected to wrap up before the summer of 2025.
The current amenities of Birdland:
- Birdland Pool
- Five tennis and pickleball courts
- A mini pitch futsal court
- Picnic tables
- Natural turf open space
After evaluation, Des Moines Parks and Recreation decided Birdland needed some updates.
“One way we look at improving our parks is using a national metric from the Trust for Public Lands, Parkscore,” Page said. “As we continue to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion, it is important that our parks have park amenities that reflect the interests of the neighborhoods and park users that surround the park.
You can see how Des Moines fares by Parkscore’s standards here.
The improvements coming to Birdland:
- Removal of five existing tennis court courts, posts, lights, footings, fencing, drainagechannels and surrounding concrete walkways
- Seven new tennis courts with high performance coating/surface, nets and stripping for tennis and pickleball
- Two basketball courts with hoops, backboard and striping
- New perimeter fencing
- LED sports lighting for all the tennis courts and basketball courts.
- ADA compliant sidewalks
- Site grading and stormwater drainage system
- General landscape restoration
Why is Birdland getting updated now?
According to Parkscore, Des Moines is below average for the number of basketball courts per capita.
“Data compiled shows that Des Moines is in the bottom 20% percentile of basketball hoops provided per capita,” Page said. “Currently, each basketball hoop in Des Moines Parks serves over 4,100 residents or 2.4 hoops per 20,000 residents.”
Adding basketball courts will increase the number of people who can play in the Des Moines Metro.
Additionally, The Birdland tennis courts are in disrepair, and according to Page, there are no records to show how old they actually are.
“Our aerials files do not go back before 1930 unfortunately, so I cannot see how old they are. I also do not know how many times they have been repaired or rebuilt,” he said. “… It is safe to say these courts are a historically significant to our park system.”
With the plan to completely revamp the courts, Des Moines is catching up to the pickleball craze sweeping the country.
What’s the deal with pickleball?
In addition to the current state of the tennis courts, pickleball is sweeping the nation. According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the number of people playing pickleball grew by 159% over three years to 8.9 million in 2022.
“We see the same demands here in Des Moines,” Page said. “Observations from the field (parks), increased participation in our pickleball leagues, and through staff contacts with players.”
A growing sport, pickleball has seen courts pop up in the Des Moines Metro including courts inside and outside. Recently, Merle Hay Mall and the Southridge Mall have been the fruits of the pickleball movement.
“We will be soon bidding out more stand-alone pickleball courts for Stone park this winter, subject to the city council approval,” Page said. “However, it is important to note that all 56 tennis courts in park system are striped for both tennis and pickleball.”
What Birdland hopes to offer:
By giving the Birdland Sports Complex a facelift, Des Moines Parks and Recreation hopes to bring a new sense of community surrounding Birdland and all it has to offer.
“The northside of Des Moines has always been proud of their parks,” Page said. “Many of the North High School student athletes not only began their tennis, basketball, soccer and swimming careers at Birdland park, but also continue their careers into high school by using this park. Keeping kids involved in healthy activities is a proven way to keep kids on a path to success.”
Kyle Werner is a reporter for the Register. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.