Don Friesen (left) and Rick Wadsworth (right) enjoy the first unofficial Pickleball game on the new asphalt. (Photo contributed)

Paving the way for pickleball in Vernon

Construction has begun for the pickleball courts but still needs donations.

The Vernon Pickleball Association is making progress on new courts at Marshall Field.

The excavation, backfill and top layer of crush were completed last week. Paving began earlier this week. The completion of the 12 court facility is set for July.

Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in North America. It is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis.

Pat Andrews is the president of the Vernon Pickleball Association. She said that the sport came to Vernon from Mexico. While on vacation, a couple of Vernon locals tried the sport and decided to get a small group together back home. Six years later, the Vernon Pickleball Association has 358 members. Andrews said that it was this vast interest that spurred negotiations with the city.

This fall will mark two years since the initial proposal was pitched to the city. The agreement is that the courts will be owned by the city but the VPA is building and leasing it.

“The reason we did that was to get it done sooner rather than later,” said Andrews.

Prior to this, pickleball was being played on tennis courts and because of space and time constraints, the group said they often had to turn people away.

“This will be the first site in Vernon that is dedicated courts,” said Don Friesen, who was integral in both proposal and construction phases. “We’ve been fighting for time to get places to play and time to play and the volume is huge. It’s expected that by end of 2018 there will 8 million players in U.S. and Canada.”

In the past month, VPA members and other donors have contributed $70,000 to help fund the completion of the courts. However, they are still in need of financial support in the form of donations to pay for the surround and interior fencing, permanent nets and acrylic top coat.

The 12 dedicated pickleball courts will be maintained by the V.P.A. in a five-year lease agreement with the City of Vernon, with scheduled V.P.A. play times and public access times.

A fundraiser day will be announced soon.

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Phil Rutter (left) and Rick Wadsworth (right) are all long-time members of the Vernon Pickleball Association and have been instrumental in getting the courts built from conception and planning to digging and construction. (Photo contributed)

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