Pickleball proving popular

Pictured is a standard pickleball court according to the USA Pickleball Association. 

Waterloo is the latest local municipality to catch pickleball fever. 

The Waterloo Park District Board held a special meeting last Monday night to approve construction of a pickleball court at Lakeview Park. The project will initially involve work on one court, but the layout is designed to accommodate two additional courts. Work to ready the ground for concrete on the first court is expected to begin later this week.

The court will be built in the southernmost end of Lakeview Park near the Sewing Pavilion on Waterworks Road and will overlook the Waterloo New Reservoir lake. Board members commented that the location will provide a scenic vista for pickleball players.

Park superintendent Don Prater agreed with the board’s remarks about the setting for the court, although he added that he looked for potential sites at other locations. That included Konarcik Park, but he did not find any areas that would be suitable for pickleball.

Prater also recognized the Lakeview Park location works well for pickleball because it is away from residential areas. Board member Michael Nolte concurred, noting the noise created by repeated striking of the plastic pickleball with rackets would likely upset anyone who had a home near the court.      

Prater said that, weather permitting, the court could be ready as soon as the end of September. He explained that once concrete was poured, it would need to cure for 30 days, after which the playing surface could be installed.

The surface will be installed by McConnell & Associates of St. Louis, a company that specializes in pavement and outdoor sports surfacing.

The idea of pickleball had already been discussed at a July park board meeting, as several residents and public officials had contacted the district about interest in having it as a recreational option in Waterloo. 

At the meeting, members voted to table the discussion because funds for construction of a pickleball court were not in the current budget.

Waterloo Park Board President Kevin Hahn reported that a recent project was completed under budget, freeing up funds to begin a pickleball project this year.

At the meeting, Prater added the bids for different components involved in constructing the first court at Lakeview Park and said the project would cost $35,000, including the concrete, court surface, fence and nets.  

Prater said he had already received much input about a potential pickleball court, including the color of the playing surface, about which he said people have strong opinions.  

Pickleball players, or “picklers,” already have a reputation for being fanatical about the game, which is becoming a phenomenon. 

A 2019 report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association found there were 3.3 million picklers in the United States, making it one of the fastest-growing sports in the country. 

The game combines the rules of tennis, badminton and ping-pong and is played on a badminton-size court with paddles and a plastic ball with holes. In addition to being appropriate for most ages and athletic abilities, makeshift pickleball courts are easy to construct and the playing equipment is inexpensive – making the sport accessible to many and helping it grow in popularity.

A May 2020 New York Times article found pickleball grew even more as a result of COVID-19 social-distancing mandates as the game provided a way to be safely entertained while getting low-impact exercise.

The game is spreading locally as well. Pickleball has become an option at area YMCA locations, and picklers in the area have reported marking their own court lines at tennis courts around Monroe County as well as traveling across the Midwest to attend and compete in pickleball tournaments. 

There are already courts for the quickly growing game in Red Bud’s Lincoln Park, and the City of Columbia recently approved conversion of an existing tennis court at Metter Park for pickleball purposes.

Columbia City Administrator Doug Brimm said preliminary plans to convert the court at Metter Park are underway and that possible locations for pickleball at Bolm-Schuhkraft Park are also being explored.

For more information about pickleball, visit the USA Pickleball Association website, usapickleball.org.

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Scott Woodsmall

HTC web