Denver pickleball player arrested after marking gym floor with permanent marker

When 71-year-old pickleball player Arslan Guney used a permanent marker to paint over faded marks on a public court, he never thought it could get him into legal trouble.

But Denver Parks and Recreation swiftly banned him from their facilities and contacted the police, who issued a warrant for his arrest.

Guney went to police headquarters on March 24, facing felony charges of criminal mischief. He could have gone to prison for one to three years, but the Denver District Attorney’s Office decided not to charge him and instead sent the case to mediation.

“Mr. Guney was traumatized by having to turn himself in … [and] sit in jail for 10 hours,” his lawyer Hollynd Hoskins told As It Happens guest host Gillian Findlay.

Staff at the Central Park Recreation Center in Denver helped pickleball players set up a temporary court by drawing “X” marks on the gym floor, indicating where players were to lay down a yellow marker to outline their playing field. (Submitted by Hollynd Hoskins)

Denver Parks and Recreation did not respond to a request for comment from As It Happens.

The retiree regularly played and volunteered at the Central Park Recreation Center, which has one of the only gyms in Denver, Colo., that does not have fixed pickleball lines. It was also one of the only centers to reopen last fall and start a pickleball program as coronavirus pandemic restrictions were lifted.

The sport is a mix of tennis, badminton and table tennis. Pickleballers can play indoors or outdoors, in singles or doubles, on a badminton-sized court and a slightly-modified tennis net. They hit a hard, plastic ball with a paddle instead of a racket.

Staff helped players set up a temporary court by drawing their own “X” marks on the gym floor, indicating where players were to lay down yellow markers and outline their playing field.

According to Hoskins, Guney asked Denver Parks and Recreation for more hours and a permanent court. He also taught local youth how to play the game. With all of his involvement, staff assigned him the job of drawing them a diagram — a reference for where they were to make their own markings each morning on the gym floor.

After a pickleball game on March 14, Guney — by now the centre’s top pickleball advocate — saw that some of the “X” marks on the gym floor faded. So he went upstairs, asked the staff for a black Sharpie and then drew an “X” or a box on some of the pre-existing marks.

“He thought he was helping. He thought he had the permission. And that was a big mistake,” she said.

According to the Washington Post, Denver Parks and Recreation Accused Guney of defacing public property and causing $9,344 US ($11,666 Cdn) worth of damage, which is the cost to refinish the gym floor.

Pickleball players use removable yellow markers or yellow tape to indicate their playing field on temporary courts. (Submitted by Hollynd Hoskins)

On Tuesday, the Denver District Attorney’s Office issued a statement advising parks administrators and the pickleball player to see each other eye-to-eye and play ball — figuratively.

“My office has not charged Mr. Arslan Guney with any criminal counts,” Denver District Attorney Beth McCann said.

“At my suggestion, the parties will attempt to resolve this matter through mediation with a city mediator. I am optimistic that by sitting down and working out a mutually-agreeable solution, this matter can be solved amicably.”

Written by Mehek Mazhar. Interview with Hollynd Hoskins produced by Chris Harbord.

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