Pickle up the pace: Fastest growing sport in Grand wants more courts
The fastest growing sport in America is looking for a place in Grand County.
Pickleball, a paddleball sport that combines tennis, badminton and table tennis, has converted courts popping up indoors and outdoors across Grand. The sport has yet to find a court strictly designated for pickleball, but that could change soon.
While making space for the sport has been a discussion with towns across the county for some time, pickleball has started to pick up the pace in the last year.
Barb Gardner, the “unofficial” organizer of Granby pickleball, said there might be close to 200 people across the county signed up for pickleball one way or another.
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“I enjoy it because it’s a sport that any age can play,” Gardner said. “I play with my kids in their 20s and 30s. There are people 80 years and older that still can play.”
It’s especially popular in the retirement community. Gardner said players prefer pickleball to squash or tennis because it’s a smaller court, making it both active and social.
“The problem is we don’t have any place to play,” Gardner said. “There is not one designated pickleball court in the county.”
Pickleball players have made do by taping lines onto the old tennis courts at the Inn at Silvercreek with permission, using open gym times at elementary schools and sharing courts with tennis players.
As the sport has grown, it’s become increasingly clear to Gardner and others that they needed their own space.
She reached out to Julie Martin, recreation director in Granby, a few years ago about making space for pickleball, but it wasn’t popular enough at that point. Earlier this year, with the sport more popular than ever, Gardner and the Granby pickleballers proposed painting markings on the tennis courts in Granby.
The town hosted a few meetings with equal parts pickleball and tennis players.
“It became very clear very quickly it was not an option to paint lines on the tennis courts,” Martin said.
Adding lines would take away the courts’ U.S. Tennis Association sanctioning. It could also create confusion and leave players from both sports competing for court time.
Instead, the town has drawn up plans to build two pickleball courts in Polhamus Park. The proposal has made it through the first draft of the 2020 budget, and Martin is fairly confident the courts will make it through.
“My goal is to have the first professional pickleball courts in the county,” Martin said.
It’s not just Granby making space for the sport. Winter Park has also been looking at converting tennis courts.
According to Gerry Vernon, public works director for Winter Park, the same issue came up: Outdoor courts can only be used five or six months a year, and court time is already a scarce commodity.
He recommended in September that the Wolf Park basketball court get the pickleball lines instead. The non-regulation court sees little use, according to Vernon, and this would avoid the confusion of having too many markings.
“We’re going to try and get it done next spring, as soon as we can,” Vernon said.
Depending on the popularity of the converted basketball court, Winter Park could look into building pickleball courts as well.
“If a lot of people play, it’s a future option down the road,” Vernon said. “I believe there’s room at Wolf Park.”
There’s also a group of pickleball players in Grand Lake, ranging from 20 to 40 participants at each session. Available to all skill levels, the Grand Lake Center hosts pickleball games throughout the year indoors and outdoors. People from all over the county come to play at the Grand Lake courts, according to Dick Sisung, the game manager for this group.
The outdoor courts in Grand Lake are painted over the tennis courts, so they do have to share with tennis players. While players in Grand Lake have also looked into getting their own outdoor courts, they have not yet found the funding.
For Gardner and the other players in Grand, they continue to enjoy their favorite sport, making do with the courts available to them now.
“We are really, really looking forward to some outdoor pickleball courts designated just for pickleball,” Gardner said. “It will be an amazing asset to our recreation district.”
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