Pickleball enthusiasts throughout the area are celebrating after Highlands Town Board approved converting half of the tennis courts at the Rec Park into designated pickleball courts at September’s meeting on Thursday.
Pickleball is similar to tennis, but the court is smaller and players use paddles to hit a whiffle ball over a net.
Highlands Recreation Director Lester Norris made the recommendation to the Board to convert two tennis courts at the Rec Park into pickeball courts and supported the recommendation with a petition signed with approx. 50 signatures.
“With the growing participation in pickleball and a petition requesting designated pickleball courts, the staff feel that the two tennis courts on the right of the drive up to the park be repurposed and designated as pickleball courts,” said Norris. “As was mentioned at the retreat, the existing courts would need to be extended 10 feet towards the drive, which would allow for the construction of six designated pickleball courts.”
The petition was started by pickleball player Bill Zoellner who said the popularity of the sport has skyrocketed in recent years.
“There’s a big demand for it, it grown over 600% in the past 6 years,” said Zoellner. “All across America they’re converting tennis courts to pickleball courts and I think it will be great for Highlands.”
Pickleball player Vivian Melecio has been playing for years and helped circulate the petition asking for designated courts.
“Pickleball is in such high demand,” said Melecio. “People come from towns all over and the first thing they ask is where can we play pickleball. And it’s such a social game. I love a lot of people I’ve met playing and stayed in touch with them for years and years.”
Pickleball player Craig Atwood played tennis in college and said pickleball is a natural transition.
“It’s like a running game of ping pong,” said Atwood. “But it’s not a game of force, but about strategy and control.”
Norris said converting the tennis courts to pickleball courts would cost approx. $125,000 to take out the fence, remove existing surface material, extend the courts to the 120-foot length that is needed, resurface the area (to include 3 inches of new stone, 2 inches of asphalt binder, and 1 inch of asphalt) for six pickleball courts and install new black vinyl coated chain link fence.
The courts will be light green outside the pickleball courts and the courts themselves will be blue with white lines (to match the tennis courts) and a 4-foot tall separation fence between the a butting ends of the courts with two 4-foot walk through to access all courts.
Norris said he hopes to have the courts finished between May and June 2020, but that is weather dependent and could be delayed until July.