TWINSBURG — Watch out wiffleball — and tennis enthusiasts as well — because the increasing popularity of pickleball has resulted in pleas from local players for the city to create dedicated courts.
Both wiffleball and pickleball are played with plastic, perforated balls, but wiffleball mirrors baseball, while pickleball is similar to tennis, or badminton, which served as its inspiration back in the 1960s.
Peg Breetz and Karen Heil approached City Council on June 25 to seek support for the growing sport of pickleball. They said about 40 to 50 residents gather at certain times each week to play at the Glenmeadow Park tennis courts. They want some of the courts to be reconfigured according to pickleball specifications.
According to the USA Pickleball Association, the sport’s national non-profit governing body, the game was invented by former U.S. Rep. Joel Pritchard, a congressman from Washington State, and Bill Bell, a businessman, who used an old badminton court, ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball to improvise the game for their families in 1965 over a weekend in Seattle.
“Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton,” the association states on its website, www.usapa.org. “They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together.”
The association describes pickleball as a sport that can be played people of all ages and skill levels, with simple rules easy for beginners to pick up and play that can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive contest for experienced players. Combining elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, pickleball can be played either indoors or outdoors on a 20-by-44 foot badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net.
It is played with a paddle and a plastic ball with holes, in either single or doubles competition.
Twinsburg is already home to “The World Series of Wiffleball,” another sport played with a plastic ball with holes. The tournament is billed by its organizers as “America’s Largest Wiffleball Tournament,” with 91 teams from five states participating in 2018. The 2019 World Series of Wiffleball is scheduled for Sept. 14-15, organizers have announced at www.worldseriesofwiffleball.com.
Locally, some pickleball enthusiasts say they hit the courts three times a week.
Breetz told city council the city has lined some of the Glenmeadow courts for tennis and pickleball, but because the striping is different, it can be confusing when both are played on the same court.
“Because there are no dedicated courts here, local residents are going outside of Twinsburg,” said Breetz. “We’d like for them to stay in town and play in a more professional atmosphere. Dedicated courts also could host tournaments.”
Heil said the local group plays Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. and Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m., and she added she also has played in Solon, Stow, Independence, Broadview Heights and Parma Heights.
“It is estimated that 3.1 million people were playing pickleball in 2017, and that was up 12 percent from the year before,” Heil said.
Mayor Ted Yates said the sport “is exploding” in the Columbus area, and he is aware that several area communities have converted some of their tennis courts to pickleball use.
Yates said he has talked with several residents who are interested in playing on local dedicated courts.
Yates said he also has discussed the issue with Parks-Rec Director Derek Schroder, the city’s parks and rec board and the Friends of the Parks, and noted the latter could be instrumental in helping to raise funds for the courts.
“I don’t think it would cost too much to convert tennis courts for pickleball use, but we would have to further investigate that,” he said.
Breetz said she and Heil, and possibly some other players in their group, plan to make a more formal presentation about the sport at Council’s July 9 meeting.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400, ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.