By Cheryl Conway
Randolph residents who enjoy playing pickleball may be given another option for court-time, one that can bring them outdoors, if everything lines up accordingly.
Members of the Randolph Parks and Recreation Department are exploring whether providing pickleball courts outdoors in Randolph is possible. Two pickleball enthusiasts recently attended an Advisory Committee meeting to request the idea for some outdoor pickleball courts in town.
Converting courts in town, whether temporarily or permanently, would allow pickleball players more time on the court without being restricted indoors with membership fees, and would also expand recreational opportunities in town.
“I think it’s another recreational activity that gets people outside, active and having fun,” says Russ Newman, director of Randolph Parks and Recreation.
A cross between tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong, pickleball is a fun paddle sport for all ages.
Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, WA. Three dads – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum -whose kids were bored during their summer are credited for creating game. One explanation for the name of the sport was derived from Pritchard’s dog, Pickles, a cocker spaniel who would chase the ball and run off with it.
Parks and recreation recently completed its master plan when the request for pickleball courts came in. Two residents approached the advisory committee and suggested converting the tennis courts at Brundage Park in Randolph to pickleball courts.
“We got into this in Florida where it’s played outdoors,” says Norman Kalina of Randolph, one of the pickleball players who approached the committee about a month ago. “We just into this a couple of years ago; we are newbies.” He has been playing pickleball at the YMCA in Randolph for the past four months, but with so many other avid pickleball players, finding enough court time has been a challenge.
“They’ve bent over backwards for us pickleballers,” says Kalina, about the YMCA that provides about two to three hours each day for pickleball. When it rains, however, the gym often gets utilized by the summer camp, thus limiting the amount of time on the pickleball court, he says.
“We try to play everyday,” says Kalina. “You got to reserve the courts,” which are temporary courts. “They have these kits which contain the nets and steel tubes. Two people can put it together.”
While the indoor courts at the YMCA are available when reserved, atleast for 10 months out of the year when summer camp is not in session, Kalina says playing pickleball outdoors on facilities provided by recreation without having to pay a membership or any cost would be a wonderful amenity in town.
“People would like more places to play,” says Kalina, “to play outside on a nice day.” He estimated that 30 to 40 other residents play pickleball at the YMCA.
“It’s great exercise; it’s a fast game, reflexes have to be up,” says Kalina. “The court size is the same as a badminton court; you play with a whiffle-ball so ball doesn’t go as fast. It’s an addictive sport; we like everything about it. We just want to play pickleball.”
Recreation officials are checking with the U.S. Pickleball Association on options and regulations for pickleball courts.
Newman says he is investigating what the costs would be to convert the tennis courts to pickleball courts. Lower nets and smaller court are standard with pickleball play. Typically four pickleball courts can fit into one tennis court.
Six tennis courts exist at Brundage Park, says Newman, and is currently the only recreation space in town with tennis courts. Another option would be to set up non-permanent courts for pickleball players. This could require painting lines or restriping with removable paint or tape, and temporary nets to convert tennis courts into pickleball courts.
Whatever option chosen, property taxes should not be impacted, says Newman.
“We budgeted money for new program development,” he says. “We need to determine what the costs would be and what needs to be budgeted.”
Once approved, a municipal purchasing process will need to be followed, he adds, and the concept can be part of the master plan.