It was a golden day for Steve Zalai, the man who stood alone in 2017 asking the City of Chino Hills for pickleball, but now surrounded by dozens of fellow enthusiasts on four new courts at Vellano Park in Chino Hills.

He greeted Mike Orduno with gusto, the resident who joined him in the quest three years ago, and the two basked in the glory of pickleball paradise.

Dozens of residents came out for the opening day celebration Thursday morning under blue skies and crisp autumn weather.

Mayor Brian Johsz hit the first serve to Councilman Ray Marquez to put the courts into play, after which residents with pickleball paddles played pickup games.

“It’s a fun sport and great exercise,” said Chino Hills resident Diane Villegas. “I’m very excited the courts finally opened. A lot of us have been playing in Diamond Bar.”

Wearing a red shirt with the words “I Have OPD, Obsessive Pickleball Disorder,” Chino resident Rick Mitchell, who also attended city meetings for the past five years, said the City of Chino Hills did a fantastic job.

He said Mr. Orduno and Mr. Zalai spent countless hours drawing designing different layouts and working out measurements. “They spent a lot of time on this.”

So far, the city has spent $36,955 for the resurfacing, restriping, replacing the windscreen, repairing the fence, and installing paddle holders.

Of that amount, $20,036 was funded through the Parks and Water Bond Act of 2018 (Prop. 68) and supplemented by an additional $6,919 from the city. 

The remaining $10,000 was funded by the Vellano Landscape and Lighting District.

More money has been budgeted for lights.

The 3.5-acre park is on Aviano Lane on the south side of Woodview Road in the Vellano Country Club development, but it is a city-owned neighborhood park with a basketball court and other amenities.

After residents began advocating for pickleball in 2017, the city taped the roller hockey rink at Grand Avenue Park and later the tennis court at Vellano Park.

Torrey Pines Park, south of Los Serranos Country Club Drive, was considered in 2019, but the price tag rose to $850,000 and was placed on hold when the pandemic hit.

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