Update: According to attorney Hollynd Hoskins, 71-year-old Arslan Guney turned himself in to authorities Thursday afternoon in response to an arrest warrant issued last week accusing Guney of criminal mischief. This story is ongoing.
The pickleball problems at the Central Park Recreation Center have reached new levels.
An arrest warrant was issued last week for 71-year-old Arslan Guney, a Central Park man who is being accused of criminal mischief after drawing boxes on the rec center court floor with permanent marker indicating where pickleball boundaries should be placed.
Pickleball is a popular racket sport that’s a mix of tennis, badminton and table tennis. Guney is known by fellow pickleball fans as the “Mayor of Pickleball” and can be found at the Central Park Rec Center playing and teaching the sport.
Last Monday, according to the arrest warrant, Guney asked staff members for a permanent marker. The arrest warrant said staff members later noticed “several small squares on the basketball court that were drawn in permanent marker.”
Video footage was reviewed and Guney was seen marking the floors.
John Martinez, the deputy executive director of Parks and Recreation, asked maintenance staff to remove the markings with a “solvent,” but whatever substance was used “was also removing the finish on the floor,” according to the warrant.
The warrant said the damage would cost $9,344.58 to fix.
Parks and Recreation spokesperson Cynthia Karvaski previously told Denverite that reporting “vandalism” to police is the Park and Rec department’s protocol.
“Anytime there’s any type of vandalism at any of our city-owned facilities, we do file a police report,” Karvaski said. “It’s protocol to file a report. A person took a permanent marker, came into the gym and marked the floor. That would be considered vandalism. Similar to if we walked into the City and County Building and drew on the floor.”
However, Guney’s attorney Hollynd Hoskins said rec center staff previously drew on the floor in a similar manner and Guney simply and mistakenly followed suit. Guney declined our request for comment.
The courts at the Central Park center aren’t permanently marked for pickleball. Instead, yellow raised cloth markers that resemble tape are used to designate the ins and outs of the playing field. Those markers aren’t permanent either and need to be set up, along with the nets, during pickleball play.
According to Hoskins and several witness statements she received, rec center staff previously drew Xs on the court floor to indicate where the yellow markers should go.
“Arslan volunteers his time to go to the center early to help set up the courts,” Hoskins said. “Each time, you have to measure the pickleball court since there’s no permanent lines… to put these yellow placards on each court. It’s my understanding that a staff member at Central Park worked with Arslan and the other pickleball players to make small Xs on the floor where the yellow placards go.”
Adding permanent pickleball lines to the court has been an ongoing discussion, according to the Front Porch, a free paper serving Northeast Denver neighborhoods.
Guney, representing himself and several other Central Park players, previously contacted Parks and Rec requesting permanent lines be added to the gym because the yellow markers were tripping hazards and moving them during games was hindering the playing experience.
Hoskins said Martinez responded to Guney’s request, saying the floors at the Central Park center were “refinished in late 2020, with two additional coats added in 2021. As a result, it will be at least 5 years before the floor requires additional work, so that would be the soonest we could add permanent lines.”
Martinez added that the yellow markers were deemed safe by a safety director, plus the permanent lines would confuse volleyball and basketball players.
A meeting was held March 9 between Guney, Martinez and several other Parks and Rec leaders regarding the previous requests. After the meeting, it was agreed upon that staff members would set up the courts before the 9 a.m. pickleball start time using a diagram that Guney would draw out.
Last Monday started off as a regular pickleball day for Guney. He arrived at the court, set everything up and played from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Hoskins said Guney noticed the “preexisting marks” were fading and confusing, so he asked for a maker and drew boxes around the Xs to signify where the yellow markings should go.
“He had no intention of destroying or damaging,” Hoskins said. “He thought because of the previous marks there would be no problem. It’s not criminal mischief. He had no intention to deface, to damage or destroy property.”
Denver police said the investigation was ongoing. Parks and Rec didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.
In an email, Hoskins said she and Guney have reached out to Parks and Rec several times “to clear up the misunderstanding, to apologize and to pay any reasonable damages.” Hoskins said they also offered “to have the Central Park Pickleball Community agree to volunteer for at-risk children in Denver at any of the recreation centers to teach them pickleball and… offer mentoring and tutoring for their school work.”
However, Parks and Rec has not returned their requests.
According to the warrant, Martinez said he “was not interested in meeting with Mr. Guney. We want to move forward with charges, as his actions cause significant damage to our gym floor and will cost the City thousands of dollars to repair.”
Hoskins said she’s working on turning the arrest warrant into a court summons in order to avoid any jail time.
In the meantime, Guney is still banned from all of Denver’s rec centers and pickleball play is suspended at the Central Park center.
“He is so shocked and saddened,” Hoskins said. “He has no criminal history…The gym has not been damaged and he had no intention of causing damage.”