A suspect remains at large after a pickleball storage shed in Santa Monica was set on fire, destroying thousands of dollars worth of equipment.
The fire erupted Monday night at Memorial Park around 1 a.m. The storage shed housed pickleball equipment including nets, paddles, balls and more. A nearby fence was also damaged from the blaze.
Boasting over 1,800 members, the Santa Monica Pickleball Club is a nonprofit organization created to allow the public to play the sport for free.
City workers can transform an existing standard tennis court into four pickleball courts, allowing up to 16 people to play at one time.
Community members are distraught over the targeted attack and want the arsonist to be caught before they strike again. Authorities are investigating the case as a suspected arson.
“It’s still subject to an open investigation, but it would be a pretty far reach to call it anything but arson,” said Maryanne LaGuardia from the Santa Monica Recreation and Parks Commission.
Regular players who enjoy the courts are wondering who would do something so destructive to an equipment shed.
“It just makes you wonder who would do it and what their intentions are,” said Felix Liu, a local pickleball player. “Do they not like pickleball?”
“Just messaging with some of my friends who play here, they just can’t believe what happened,” said Alley Liang, a local resident. “Who would do such a thing?”
The incident could reveal a darker side to the sport, involving the underlying tensions between different groups, some believe.
“Some people don’t like the pickleball community for several reasons,” said Lynn Soodik from the Santa Monica Pickleball Club. “Tennis instructors now don’t give as many lessons at Memorial as they used to. Tennis players have less access. Also, there are some private pickleball players who don’t like the club because we provide public play for everybody.”
Although the suspect remains at large, the Santa Monica pickleball community is slowly rebuilding amid the destruction. Donations from local players will hopefully replace all the gear that was lost in the fire.
The investigation remains ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact Santa Monica Police or the Santa Monica Fire Department.