Despite hundreds of acres of open space within the city of Irvine, which includes 98 tennis courts, 64 soccer fields, numerous baseball fields and dozens of miles of biking trails, the city is working to address a growing need – badminton courts.
In fact, a petition being circulated by local badminton players has gained more than 1,000 signatures. Additionally, members of the Irvine City Council received a letter from U.S. Badminton’s Chief Executive Officer Linda French, emphasizing that the implementation of badminton courts in the city of Irvine would “greatly enhance” life in Irvine, especially for badminton enthusiasts.
On Tuesday, Jan. 11, the Irvine City Council unanimously voted to direct the city manager to identify indoor and outdoor space within the city to be specifically dedicated to badminton.
Prior to the vote, Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan said she recently learned about the importance of the sport to the community, and after meeting with local badminton players, added she would support the idea of creating dedicated community space to the sport of badminton.
“I want to thank the community for their commitment because I believe this was brought up in 2014, and then again in 2016 – and today with over 1,000 people signing on to the petition,” Khan said. “I look forward to finding opportunities to find appropriate space for the sport in Irvine.”
Despite not having any official badminton courts in Irvine, council member Anthony Kuo said he’s had some recent first-hand experience watching people play badminton in his neighborhood.
“I was backing out of my driveway, and in the rearview mirror were two of my neighbors, in the middle of the street, playing badminton. I have lived there for the most recent two years – and I actually used to live in that home for about 15 years before – and they’ve never played badminton,” he said. “So either the group that’s proposing badminton has infiltrated my neighbors and have figured out a way to get me on board, or this really is fortuitous and badminton is a very, very fast-growing sport.”
Kuo learned that he was unaware there needed to be dedicated space for the sport, adding that he thinks the pandemic has forced the majority of suitable space to close.
“I think a major reason why there’s been an upwelling of support, aside from the natural growth of interest, is that the traditional locations where one could play have been closed temporarily due to the pandemic (UC Irvine, Irvine Valley College, and the South Coast Chinese Cultural Center),” Kuo wrote in a text to Irvine Weekly.
Unfortunately, that may be the reality, according to Irvine resident and local badminton instructor, Bob Gilmour.
Gilmour addressed the council during public comment on January 11. In his speech, Gilmour, who said he was nearly 70, said he continues to be an avid badminton player and spends time coaching the sport and Irvine Chinese School.
But Gilmour added that more room is needed.
“Badminton is booming in Irvine and Orange County. There is so much demand for badminton from Irvine’s youth that I started a Sunday youth program at El Toro High School to teach everyone the basics of this sport,” he said. “The program was active from 2013 to 2020, and at that time I have enrolled over 300 students — about 90% are from Irvine.”
Recently, Gilmour explained that “policy changes” within the school district shut down the badminton program. Now teaching badminton at Irvine Chinese School, Gilmour said classes are overflowing but are only open to Irvine Chinese School students.
“Accessibility has always been a challenge, even for me, and I have to travel to play,” Gilmour said. “With so many people playing badminton and getting into the sport, I believe Irvine should have a permanent home for badminton.”