WASHINGTON COUNTY – Pickleball fever is spreading and the Dixie area is its latest prey, as more and more players become taken with this addicting and enjoyable hobby.
In Washington County, pickleball draws a sizeable crowd. With 14 courts and over 400 active participants, the SunRiver St. George retirement community is Dixie’s largest pickleball venue, though play is restricted to residents and guests of residents of the SunRiver community.
The United States Pickleball Associationlists a half-dozen playing areas open to the public – Hurricane City Park, Vernon Worthen Park, Green Springs Park, Green Valley Spa & Resort, Bloomington
Country Club, and the St. George Senior Center – as well as many other private ones.
Prospects for new facilities
The city council for the City of St. George has approved development of a pickleball facility. Councilman Jon Pike said that the facility will be located in the Little Valley area, with the initial phase planning for 16-20 courts, that number increasing to 24 courts at a later time. As it is in the early phases of design, Pike did not know when construction will begin.
Gail Neumann, who moved to Ivins a year ago, wanted an option closer to home. Along with a group of fellow enthusiasts, she started a thrice-weekly league on an abandoned tennis court in her neighborhood. The number of interested players soon grew, prompting them to contact the Ivins City Council about the possibility of constructing a pickleball facility at UNITY Park.
What is pickleball?
Described by NBC News as the nation’s fastest growing sport, pickleball was invented in Bainbridge Island, Washington, in the summer of 1963 by politician Joel Pritchard and several family friends. They were attempting to play badminton but could not locate the equipment and instead started working on an alternative, which consisted of a plastic ball and paddles made from plywood. Pritchard’s wife, Joan, a competitive rower, later provided the inspiration for the sport’s unusual name when she said that its slow play reminded her of the “pickle boat,” or the slowest vessel in a rowing race. Tales of the sport being named after the Pritchards’ dog “Pickles” are disclaimed by the USAPA and the International Federation of Pickleball as an urban legend, stating that the Pritchards didn’t even have a dog until four years after the sport was invented.
Despite its humble origins as a family hobby, pickleball has acquired an avid worldwide following, the majority of whom have discovered it in recent years. The USAPA estimates that over 100,000 people play nationwide, with another 5,000 in Canada. Its popularity is now growing in many other countries, including Singapore, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom.
The sport itself is played on a 20-feet-by-44-feet court (a shortened tennis court of sorts) with a net hung in the middle. Also similar to tennis is the cross-court serving, volleying and boundary lines. One can play alone or with a partner. Detailed rules and terminology, as published by the IFP can be found here.
Support for new Pickleball courts in Ivins
“We are supporting their efforts,” said Benny Sorenson, director of the Ivins Parks and Recreation Department, of Neumann’s efforts petitioning the Ivins city council for courts. “We’re hoping to put in two or three temporary pickleball courts but it’s all a question of budget.”
Several players were on hand at the Ivins Fitness Festival last week, gathering signatures from interested residents. They also provided a demonstration of the sport and encouraged the public to join in.
“(We hope to) provide another opportunity for citizens of our great town to be outdoors and actively engaged in a healthy and enjoyable sport with other locals,” Neumann said. “If a temporary court is widely utilized, several permanent courts will hopefully be added to the park. Not only is pickleball good exercise, it’s a great way to socialize and meet people who share a common interest.”
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Copyright 2012 St. George News.