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Vacant pit once home to ‘Babies’ art display in downtown Palm Springs is now home to pickleball courts

An empty and vacant pit in Downtown Palm Springs that once used to display a controversial art installation is now the new home for six state-of-the-art pickleball courts. The spot is literally known as "The Pit" to locals, and has been an eye-sore for the last year and a half, including to residents like Darren Taylor, who has lived in Palm Springs for nearly ten years.

"It's not good for anybody to have, you know, kind of a derelict space or a vacant lot. Just sitting there," said Taylor. "Pickleball is not my choice, but I do think it's great to finally have something here. And with the popularity of the sport, yeah it's definitely gonna bring people in."

"It's definitely a change of pace from what was in here previously," said David Harris, a local.

The pickleball courts take up about 11,000 square feet of space in front of the Art Museum, next to the 'Forever Marilyn' statue, and adjacent to the Kimpton Rowan Hotel.

The pickleball courts are currently only exclusively open to guests of the Rowan Hotel, and when guests book the court they also get supplied with free sunscreen, paddles, pickleballs, and towels.

“It's been amazing," said General Manager Peggy Trott. "IHG worked with professionals in the Pickleball world to make sure these were the highest quality courts you can make. And we have a lot of ideas for the future. Hotel guests would love us to do open play so that we can put them together with people that they don't know, but we're not quite there yet. It's been so great to see that people will break out of a meeting at the hotel and then come down here to play pickleball.”

Trott also says there are future plans to expand the courts' use outside of the hotel. By July, they could be available for public use in a pay-to-play format.

“We truly are hoping to open it up to the public," said Trott to News Channel Three's Tori King on Monday. "And what we're looking to do is a pay to play situation so that people can reserve a court. The price will likely $10 per person, per quart for an hour and a half.”

The sandy lot, owned by Grit Development, has been used to display an array of different art exhibits, including the divisive 'Babies' display, created by Czech artist David Černý. That exhibit sat in the pit between June of 2018 to June 1st of 2023. It was eventually removed and sent to Mexico for an exhibit there. Although one baby statue does remain in Palm Springs, and sits on the second story of the outside of the Rowan Hotel.

The exhibit was a bit divisive, with people feeling strongly on both side about the location of the 'Babies'. Some folks thought the art was inappropriate and strange, and pushed for its removal. However, others fought tot keep the display, arguing Palm Springs is the perfect place to host all kinds of art.

"One of the things that made it interesting when you had the 'Babies' down in there, is that you could walk by, and it felt like there was something in there and it wasn't just this open space and just a hole in the ground kind of thing," said Harris.

Since their removal, the lot has been vacant, which is why residents and tourists are happy to see the space being utilized.

"I think it's a great location," said Yan Adan, who came all the way from London to spend a few days in Joshua Tree and Palm Springs. "I haven't really played that much before, but I would like to, and I think this is a location that incentivizes me to come and play. So I'd love to reserve a court with some friends, and maybe have a beer or something on a nice day."

The courts could be open to the public as soon as June, with the public being allowed to reserve them via a new app that's being developed.

"Being local, we know it's hot, especially in the summers," said Trott. "So the plan is that the courts will be open from eight to noon for now, and then in the Fall we'll extend the hours.”

The courts are currently being leased by the Rowan Hotel from Grit Developers, meaning the courts may not be permanent. However, they are expected to remain in the lot for now.

News Channel Three will continue to follow this story and will bring you any new updates as they come into the newsroom,

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Tori King


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