County takes action to meet demand for pickleball

When the doors open at 8 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Chelsea Community Center, there are usually people waiting to enter the gymnasium. It may come as a surprise why they’re there: They’re headed to the pickleball courts to play the fastest growing indoor sport in the United States.

Described as a mix of tennis, badminton and table tennis, pickleball has grown so much that Shelby County officials are adding more space to play the game, both indoors and outdoors. outside.

The Chelsea Community Center has three pickleball courts, which are set up in the gymnasium, where three teams of four will play five times a week. Courts are typically 20 feet wide and 44 feet long, about a quarter the size of a tennis court.

According to the USA Pickleball Association, the governing and rule-making body for the sport in that country, 4.2 million Americans played pickleball in 2020, an increase of 21.3% from 2019.

Tournament attendance is growing, new leagues are forming, and communities, country clubs and fitness centers across the country are converting hard surfaces for pickleball and building new fields dedicated to the sport.

A game for all ages

Jane Ann Mueller said many players who come to Chelsea are retired, but many are parents and are still working. She said some build their day around it.

Although it has some similarities to tennis, there are some differences. Just as the court is smaller, the rackets are smaller than tennis rackets (more like large ping pong rackets), and the ball is plastic with holes like a wiffle ball and therefore doesn’t bounce as much.

People of all ages come to play at the Chelsea Community Center. They have a variety of skill levels and play times for advanced players and beginner/novice players are separated.

Each match usually lasts around 25 minutes and the courts stay fairly full from 8am to 2pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, as well as Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings.

Respond to the request

Demand for pickleball has grown so much that Shelby County plans to add more courts to Veterans Park in Hoover.

Planning has already begun to add the outdoor courts to Veterans Park. The project is a 50-50 joint venture between the City of Hoover and Shelby County. The budget is $600,000, but may not cost that much according to County Manager Chad Scroggins.

Although the exact location has not been decided, the idea is to place it close to the car park without interfering with other activities taking place in the park, such as cross-country skiing competitions.

“There’s definitely a pretty substantial interest in the sport,” Shelby County Executive Chad Scroggins said. “We try to meet the demand of our residents and provide recreational opportunities for all ages.

Meanwhile, at the Chelsea Community Center, plans for more courts are in the works. Outdoor courts will be added, and even more courts will be available when the second gymnasium is built.

Where to play

Mueller said most attendees are residents of Chelsea and surrounding Shelby County. Some players drive to Chelsea on the days they offer to play, and on the days Chelsea do not offer pickleball (Sunday and Friday), players will find a place where they can play, following the pickleball cycle.

“People know it now and they’re hungry to know more,” she said. “Those who love the sport will seek it out.”

Mueller added that the pickleball players are a great group and said she loves having them at the community center.

In Shelby County, you’ll find pickleball courts at places like Heardmont Park, the Greystone YMCA, Joe Tucker Park in Helena, Pelham Recreation Center, Valleydale Church, and Brook Highland Racquet Club. Other sites in the area include Sicard Hollow Sports Complex in Vestavia Hills, United Methodist Church in Vestavia Hills, Lifetime Fitness in Vestavia Hills, Homewood Community Center, Levite Jewish Community Center, Mountain Brook YMCA, and the Trusville shopping center.

To learn more about pickleball, visit usapickleball.org.

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