Pickleball on the move

Plans underway for permanent infrastructure for the growing sport

The 200-plus pickleball players in Vernon have formed a small committee to work with the city to create 12 permanent pickleball courts for public and club use.

The site that appears most favourable is the grassed area within the running track in Polson Park. Twelve courts would take up roughly 25 per cent of this area and still leave room for the running track and other events that get held there. Although a public review process for use of this site is required (expected to conclude March 2017), this site  has so many advantages over any other that  Vernon pickleball players are prepared to wait to create this a top quality facility in a showcase location.

The advantages are this central location would provide practical noon hour access to downtown workers so they could activate their lunch break, no residential areas are nearby to be negatively impacted and surrounding amenities in Polson Park (covered picnic tables, children’s playground area, washrooms, parking, snack shack building nearby, etc.) would all see enhanced traffic and use.

The shade trees and the fact the site is well protected from the wind further enhance its desirability for an outdoor pickleball facility. Kelowna, Salmon Arm, Penticton, and  Kamloops, all have dedicated facilities already, but  none of them have the showcase location Polson Park provides and this would be a huge competitive advantage in holding open tournaments throughout the summer, and attracting, like Funtastic, more tourism dollars into Greater Vernon.

Pickleball, continues to be the fastest growing sport in North America, with people of all ages. Children and teens are being introduced to the game through school programs, young adults and seniors  turned off by the high cost and time of other sports such as golf  are all looking at pickleball as something they can learn quickly, and be having fun with while getting exercise. They can spend as little as 15 minutes to complete one game or a few hours to play many games.  Equipment is inexpensive, and it is a very social game and a great way to make new friends.

Our committee is about to embark on a funding program for the anticipated facility to add to the funds available from the City of Vernon so a tournament and community-ready facility can be completed. While having a site confirmed would likely enhance the success of our funding drive, this will not deter us from proceeding on this front and in fact, preliminary discussions with potential donors are already taking place.

Greater Vernon citizens will benefit from this shared cost facility with ample public access. Club members will help co-ordinate playing schedules, tournaments, provide volunteers for teaching the game, donations of used racquets for people wanting to try the game, ongoing cooperation with the parks and recreation department to maintain the facility and grow the participation level in the game.

Lastly, I would also like to take this opportunity to thank those who have allowed our Clubs to share the use of their tennis facilities (Middleton Mountain, Sawicki Park and MacDonald Park), at least until a permanent pickleball court facility is constructed. It should be noted that a lot of people besides those from our clubs are also using these facilities for pickleball. This is a  sure sign of how much fun the sport is, that it is gaining widespread popularity, and that it will be an economic and social boon.

Watch for the Pickleball Fun Day at Sawicki Millennium Park Aug. 29.

Don Friesen, vice-chairperson,

Greater Vernon Dedicated Courts Committee