Eastmoreland Racquet Club Collects Graffiti as Pickleball Booms

Owner Terry Emmert says a court ruling keeps him from cashing in on the craze.

ADDRESS: 3015 SE Berkeley Place



MARKET VALUE: $2.3 million

OWNER: Terry W. Emmert

HOW LONG IT’S BEEN EMPTY: Since about 2020

WHY IT’S EMPTY: A legal fight.

Terry Emmert is a mover, literally.

His company, Emmert International, moved Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose, an 800,000-pound wooden seaplane, 7 miles from the Willamette River to a museum in McMinnville. He shipped a 37-foot statue of Paul Bunyan out of a spot in the Kenton neighborhood.

Neighbors in the Eastmoreland neighborhood would like him to improve his graffiti-covered Eastmoreland Racquet Club, or move on and let someone else do it. Emmert bought the sprawling indoor/outdoor facility in 1995. He has repurposed it several times, using it as home court for a minor league basketball team that he started, and then for an indoor football team. For a while, another company rented it and hosted volleyball.

The club closed during the pandemic and has been gathering spray paint ever since. The “Q” is missing from the old Eastmoreland Racquet Club & Estates sign, which is fronted by a bed of untrimmed irises. The outdoor courts are discolored by sun and rain.

Nicole Wear, an Eastmoreland resident, says it pains her to see such a huge piece of property (it’s 5 acres) sit idle and rotting when pickleball courts are packed and it’s impossible to get kids into swim lessons (the club has a pool).

“It’s just a shame that there is a space that could be serving the larger community,” says Wear, who has three kids. “It feels like such a missed opportunity.”

Emmert, an energetic businessman who has owned tennis clubs, a hotel, eight ranches and who once pastured 400 water buffalo near Oregon City, says he’d like to do something with the club, but a recent court ruling prevents it.

Some years ago, a Multnomah County circuit judge ruled Emmert had lost the zoning rights that let him operate a sports club on the site. The club was built in 1976. City code changed in 1991 and no longer permitted athletic clubs in residential zones.

Emmert’s was grandfathered in, until he branched beyond tennis without the proper legal paperwork, according to the ruling. Tennis at the club stopped in 2013, when the courts were repurposed for parking. Because tennis was halted for five years, Emmert lost his zoning rights.

Emmert appealed that ruling. Just last month, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld the lower court, which had said “the property reverted to its base zoning ‘and is restricted to uses permitted under’ applicable residential and overlay zones.”

According to Emmert, that means he can’t just open the property up to pickleball or anything else. “We’ve been receiving calls from a lot of people who would like to do something with pickleball,” he says. “That would be the highest and best use right now.”

Emmert blames the city for the blight. He says his employees were attacked a few years ago while trying to secure the property.

“If we had proper law enforcement, we wouldn’t have vandalism,” Emmert says. “We pay tax dollars, and those dollars should be spent on law enforcement.”

Perhaps. But now two courts have ruled that Emmert lost his zoning rights on the property because he discontinued tennis without playing by the rules.

Every week, WW examines one mysteriously vacant property in the city of Portland, explains why it’s empty, and considers what might arrive there next. Send addresses to newstips@wweek.com.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW’s journalism through our Give!Guide Fundraising page.