A sport that has exploded in popularity over the past few years will now have a new facility thanks in part to a recent push by enthusiasts to replace a pair of Manchester’s aging tennis courts with pickleball courts.

To facilitate the project, the Manchester City Council has unanimously approved a game plan that will remove the two existing tennis courts at Tirrill Park and replace them with two new pickleball courts along with a new tennis court.

The council sought bids for two different options, one with concrete and the other with asphalt, but only one contractor made an offer on the project.

The asphalt bid came in 49% over the preliminary estimate with a bid of $101,895, due in part to the asphalt being $10,000 more expensive than presumed, while the concrete bid was 1% under the preliminary estimate at $115,241.

While the concrete price actually came in much lower than expected, the biggest difference between the estimate and bid was found in the fencing.

“Fencing material is just hard to find right now,” City Manager Tim Vick explained.

Within the scope of the project, the tennis courts will be surrounded by a 10-foot fence, the pickleball courts by an eight-foot fence and there will be a four-foot fence in-between.

The original estimate for the fencing was $34,160 in total, but in reality, the bid came in at $55,594. On average, the fencing was $35-per-foot more expensive than what the engineer had anticipated.

The council asked if it were possible to find any sort of alternative to the proposed fencing, or perhaps even use shorter fences to cut costs, but height was a stipulation of a $20,000 grant the city was awarded to help pay for the project.

When weighing the concrete or asphalt options, the council took into consideration the fate of the previous tennis courts at Tirrill Park.

Furnished with asphalt, the old courts have undergone numerous resurfacings over the years, and as a result have a very thick base, which some believed was not only unsightly, but also a hazard.

“The existing facility was downright dangerous, I think,” Councilmember Dean Sherman said. “With the condition of the fencing and elevated court surface, it’s a wonder no one ever broke a leg — it’s overdue to be replaced.”

With the concrete option not only offering more longevity than asphalt, as well as receiving the endorsement of Parks and Rec Director Doug Foley, the council unanimously agreed to go with the more expensive option.

Aside from the $20,000 grant the city has already received, Vick said city staff will also be submitting a request to the Tirrill trust for $15,000 to help further offset costs.

City Clerk Erin Learn said a portion of the project will also be paid through the park improvement fund, which is funded from the hotel/motel tax.

Councilmember Mary Ann Poynor said while she isn’t a pickleball player herself, she believes the project is a worthwhile undertaking by the city as the sport is growing rapidly in popularity and has attracted a large swath of older players.

“I like to see us support (seniors) too — a lot of times we look at what we can do to keep young people in town,” Poynor said. “I think it’s great we can give them an activity to do and I’m really delighted to support this project.”

According to the newly-signed contract, the late construction start date for the project is Oct. 4 and there are 20 working days allotted to get everything done.