AURORA — Not only will local residents be able to play tennis on six new public courts starting in August, they will have the opportunity to use the courts for another sport that is becoming very popular.
According to Sal Arquilla, the school district’s director of facilities, maintenance and operations, three of the six courts will be lined for pickleball, which is played with perforated balls and combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.
The increasing popularity of pickleball has resulted in pleas from some players in the region for communities to create dedicated courts.
Recently, two residents of Twinsburg — Peg Breetz and Karen Heil — approached Aurora City Council to seek support for the growing sport. They said about 40 to 50 residents gather at certain times each week to play at Twinsburg’s Glenmeadow Park tennis courts.
They pushed for the city to reconfigure some of the existing courts or create dedicated courts for pickleball use only.
Since pickleball courts are smaller than tennis courts, Arquilla said, three of the tennis courts between Veterans Stadium and Harmon School will add up to six pickleball courts.
He said work being done by Nagle Athletic Surfaces is on target to be completed by Aug. 1, so the public and the Greenmen girls tennis squads can begin using the courts for pre-season practice and then home matches.
"Weather has slowed the tennis court project a little, but we’re confident it will be completed by Aug. 1," Arquilla said.
The project is being done at a cost of $317,053, with $100,000 of that coming from the city.
The high school girls and boys tennis teams have not used the courts for several years, instead renting facilities at Barrington and Western Reserve Racquet and Fitness Club.
School district treasurer Bill Volosin said rental fees for those facilities was $9,612 last year.
City Councilwoman Amy Eckard, who has been a proponent of fixing up the tennis courts for years, said she is looking forward to the new courts.
"It is sad that a city our size didn’t have playable tennis courts for so long," she said. "I am so happy that we’ll finally have some nice ones."
About the pickleball aspect, Eckard said she has heard about people who play, but is not real familiar with the sport. "I have no problem lining some of the tennis courts for pickleball," she said. "It shouldn’t increase the wear and tear on the courts."
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.
"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 by people of all ages and skill levels, with simple rules that can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive contest for experienced players.
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.
In Twinsburg, some pickleball enthusiasts say they hit the courts three times a week.
Breetz told 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."
"It is estimated that 3.1 million people were playing pickleball in 2017, and that was up 12 percent from the year before," Heil added.
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.
Reporter Ken Lahmers can be reached at 330-541-9400, ext. 4189 or firstname.lastname@example.org.