VANDALIA — Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports for seniors across the country, and Vandalia’s growing Pickleball community opened eight new courts at Helke Park on Tuesday morning.
The eight Pickleball courts were constructed were three tennis courts that had been marked for demolition once stood.
Pickleball, and its popularity in Vandalia, changed that.
“These courts were originally scheduled for demolition due to age, condition, and lack of play,” said Vandalia Parks and Recreation Director Steve Clark. “Thanks for people like Vandalia resident Mike Seaman and Recreation Center employee Carol Cross, along with our facility use partnership with the Vandalia-Butler City Schools, we were able to make this project become a reality.”
The partnership with the schools also allowed the refurbishment of the remaining six tennis courts at Helke Park with the city and schools sharing the cost. The Butler High School tennis teams will move their home matches to Helke Park this fall.
“This project is an example of ‘what is right’ with local government,” said Mayor Arlene Setzer. “We are able to listen to our citizens and then change our plans to respond to their needs. We are also able to leverage our resources to find creative ways to improve public facilities.”
Most mornings there are several players on the courts and on Tuesday the Parks and Recreation Department was hosting a tournament for 32 players.
“From what I’ve been told, these courts have already been very busy, and I sincerely hope they remain busy for many years to come,” said Setzer.
Pickleball was invented in 1965 by a U.S. Congressman, later the lieutenant governor of Washington state, Joel Pritchard according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). In an effort to stave off boredom one weekend, Pritchard and a friend took to the badminton court on his property, but they couldn’t find a full set of equipment, so improvised with ping-pong paddles and a wiffle ball. They created rules for their new game and taught friends to play.
The attraction of pickleball—for seniors, especially—is clear. It’s fast-paced, low-impact, and familiar – anyone who’s played a racquet sport before can quickly get the hang of it. Because the court is small (it can fit into half or even a third of a tennis court), and doubles games are standard, players run a lot less than they would in tennis. Pickleball can be played year-round, inside or out.
Reach Darrell Wacker at 937-684-8983 or on Twitter @VandaliaDrummer.