June 3, 2022
MPCC tennis courts to be converted to pickleball courts
The “addictive” game that won’t stop growing is the reason why the four existing tennis courts at Memorial Park Community Center, 510 Bert St., will be closed from Monday, June 6 through the end of June while they’re converted to 12 pickleball courts.
City commissioners in August approved roughly $100,000 for the conversion, which will include resurfacing of the courts, restriping, installation of permanent pickleball nets, and the reorientation of the courts toward Bert Street.
The demand for courts in Johnson City has continued to blossom for years, and the sport’s popularity is steadily surging nationwide. Johnson City’s first-ever pickleball tournament was held indoors at MPCC in 2018, and the event had players, organizers and potential sponsors buzzing about its potential growth. The buzz has only increased.
“We have 234 players at MPCC, and this has been an increase from 64 players in 2015,” said Senior Services Manager Deb Fogle. “There are currently close to 500 players in the Tri-Cities region playing pickleball.
“It is not just a senior sport, and there is an opportunity for growth in young adults, teens and children. We have seen an increase of college-age students playing pickleball at MPCC’s outdoor courts. This is a great sport for the family.”
With 4.8 million people now playing — almost double the number from just five years ago, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association — some of the sport's devotees are capitalizing on pickleball's spike in popularity.
Most of pickleball's core players are over age 65 and play more than eight times per year, but the game is getting younger, with the strongest growth among players under 55, according to USA Pickleball.
The game was created by three men in Bainbridge Island, Wash., who were looking to give their bored children something to do during the summer. The wife of one of the men named it pickleball after the “pickle boat,” the nickname for the last boat to come in with its catch after a fishing trip.
Pickleball can be played by all ages, but the short court has attracted older players who may not be able to cover the ground on a full-size tennis court in as short a time as they used to. It’s played in elementary schools, community and recreation centers, country clubs and many other locations. The game not only provides exercise but also an environment extremely conducive to socialization. Played much like tennis with a ping pong twist, the sport combines the elements of those racket games, as well as badminton.
Pickleball is played with a plastic ball with holes in it, and a racket about 8 inches wide and 16 inches long. The court – often adapted from a tennis court – is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long.
The game now has two national professional tournaments, both formed in the last four years, and pickleball organizers are courting corporate sponsors to help grow the sport in the U.S. and abroad as part of a bid for Olympic inclusion.
The new pickleball courts will be available for use in July. For more information about pickleball opportunities at Memorial Park Community Center, call 423-434-6237 or 423-434-5749.