In 2015, Cathy Stansbury, the USAPA ambassador for Daytona Beach pickleball, sought help to construct more courts. Rainer and Julie Martens stepped up to assist. They initially approached the mayor of Daytona Beach to convert little-used tennis courts on City Island, but the Mayor and City commissioners showed no interest.
Later, they learned that the U.S. Tennis Association was leaving the Florida Tennis Center owned by the City of Daytona Beach. They proposed converting some of these courts into pickleball courts, but again, the City declined despite the Center losing $250,000 annually. The pursuit of courts was abandoned when Cathy moved to Montana.
In early 2018, Chuck Mecklem approached Rainer, knowing about his previous efforts, to explore building more courts. They met with the mayor of Holly Hill, John Penny, to discuss the possibility of developing pickleball courts at Hollyland Park, which was under-utilized. Chuck, Rainer, Julie, and Doug McClintock, a prominent pickleball player in the community, met with John Penny and Joe Forte, the Holly Hill City Manager.
The City expressed interest, but funding became the main obstacle. All they needed to do was find about $4 million in funds to build our dream complex. Various sources of funding were mentioned, all of which would take several years to acquire along with City approval before ever beginning to build. Envisioning a 4-5 year timeframe to get new courts, the group's interest cooled with Holly Hill.
Being inpatient, and seeing the growing need for more courts, the “founding four” re-approached the City of Daytona Beach to convert eight tennis courts at the Florida Tennis Center into pickleball courts and refurbish the clubhouse. Despite submitting a proposal and offering to cover the costs, they received no response.
Good bye Daytona Beach, hello Holly Hill! In the summer of 2018 the "founding four" again met with the leadership of the City of Holly Hill who were encouraging and courteous. The City saw the tremendous potential for the growth of pickleball and the positive impact a pickleball facility, with other recreational amenities, would have on Holly Hill.
Only one problem remained: How were they going to pay for it? The City was not in a position to fund the entire project.
The Florida Tennis Center, owned by the City of Daytona Beach
The once under-utilized Hollyland Park in Holly Hill, FL.
Chuck Mecklem, one of the "Founding Four" playing with Pictona instructor, Lu Kandt.
The Martens surprised everyone by offering to contribute $3 million, with the City contributing $1 million and covering future maintenance and utility expenses. Through this public-private partnership, the project was secured, and Pickleball Daytona at Holly Hill was formed. The founding four and Mayor Penny and City Manager Joe Forte sold the project to the City Commission.
The task at hand was to establish a club responsible for operating the facility once it was built, thus giving birth to Pickleball Daytona at Holly Hill. The club held its first public meeting at Holly Hill City Hall on August 29, 2018, and within the next 20 months, it attracted 560 members. During 2019, the club underwent a name change from Pickleball Daytona at Holly Hill to Pictona at Holly Hill, derived from a combination of PICkleball and dayTONA.
Meanwhile, Rainer and Julie Martens collaborated with Dana Smith, the architect for the project, to design the facility, which ultimately comprised 24 courts, a clubhouse with locker rooms, a player shop, and a games room. Additionally, the facility featured a senior activity center with shuffleboard courts, a croquet court, bocce ball courts, and horseshoes. The project expanded to include a restaurant called "The Kitchen," named after the no-volley zone in pickleball. A community garden was also incorporated, featuring sections for school children to grow vegetables, an adult section, and a hydroponic garden that would supply fresh vegetables to The Kitchen.
The construction management firm, A.M. Weigel, was selected to oversee the building of the now-called Pictona. A groundbreaking ceremony took place in May 2019, and construction commenced later that summer. The project was successfully completed in August 2020, with a final cost exceeding $6 million. The City of Holly Hill increased its contribution to $1.3 million, an ECHO grant of $400,000 was obtained, and private funding and sponsorships added another $50,000. The remaining amount was covered by the Martens through their Martens Charities. The collaborative efforts of Dana Smith, Mike Weigel, Dwight Pickett (Weigel partner), Joe Forte, Holly Hill City Manager, along with the Martens, ensured the project was completed on time.
The Club opened 8 covered courts and 6 uncovered courts on June 15, 2020, while construction continued for the building and some other amenities. The Clubhouse, Kitchen, Senior Activity Center, and the remaining 10 courts opened on July 15.
Currently, the Club faces the challenge of funding the day-to-day operation of the facility at Hollyland Park. The main sources of revenue are member dues, profits from The Kitchen, sales from the Player Shop, and tournament surpluses. The Club has also secured major sponsorships from MetroHealth, Humana, Aetna, AdventHealth, Florida Health Care Plans, Brown & Brown, S.R. Perrott, and Conviva : organizations that actively support various causes in the greater Daytona area.