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Pickleball has taken the country by storm since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In fact, experts say it is now the fastest growing sport in the U.S. during the past two years. With famous athletes like Tom Brady and LeBron James now getting in on the action, pickleball’s evolution is top of mind for many community rec centers.

For example, the Hudson YMCA and YMCA Camp St. Croix recently partnered with the Hudson Pickleball Association to build six new state-of-the-art pickleball courts.

“The YMCA in Hudson has always been about helping to strengthen the Hudson Community, and since many of the Pickleball players play at the Y during the winter, we knew it was important for the community,” said Chris Kost, the executive director of the YMCA of the North. “The courts are still fairly new to the community and more and more people are finding out about them.”

Kost said the new courts have been a work in progress. The partnership between the entities first began in 2015 when the Hudson YMCA added pickleball court lines to their gym floor. Over those seven years, there were several plans for courts in the community. Finally, the three entities reached an agreement for the Hudson Pickleball Association to access the new courts in the mornings and a few other times during the week.

Learn More: Community rec leaders share why pickleball is so popular.

“The YMCA Camp St. Croix has access to the courts during some afternoon times during the week for campers, and the community has access during open times,” said Kost. “There is an online schedule that individuals may reserve space during open times. Overall, people love the additional courts in the community.”

Kost called the decision to add the courts is “an easy one” as pickleball participants grew over time. He said the sport is a great low-impact form of exercise. It also adds another way of socializing and for people to learn about YMCA Camp St. Croix.

“This camp has been serving campers for over 114 years,” said Kost. “These courts have also provided players the opportunity to be outside and benefit from the exposure to nature and the great outdoors. The community has seen the YMCA’s commitment to work with others and our dedication to help strengthen our community.”

To make the project a reality, they refurbished the 70-year-old tennis courts at YMCA Camp St. Croix. The courts were designed by the Hudson Pickleball Association and approved by the Y. There are six courts with each separated by individual, low-height fixed fences preventing balls from going into nearby courts.

Pickleball's Evolution

Image courtesy of the YMCA of the North

“If you have not already incorporated pickleball into your programming, you need to do so,” advised Kost. “Individuals of all ages can participate. Not only can this be an interactive activity for your members and guests, it can also provide a revenue stream with lessons, leagues and tournaments for all ages. I think community partnerships in these types of projects are amazing.”

Here are a few other examples of pickleball’s evolution in community rec.

Louisville’s Riverfront Pickleball Entertainment Center

A new project coming soon to Louisville, Kentucky, is a pickleball entertainment center. While in the early stages of development, the location will have multiple courts available to the public alongside outdoor bars, food vendors, a game yard and views of the Ohio River.

The concept was imagined up by John Flodder, the co-founder of the Ten20 brewery and Lee Wyland, the co-owner of CORE Real Estate. The facility is estimated to be around 45,000 square feet. It will be located just east of Louisville’s Waterfront Park with a scheduled completion date of early 2023.

Pickleball at Cincinnati’s Sawyer Point

In Cincinnati, the sport is seeing such a large boost in popularity that the pickleball facility at Sawyer Point Park recently underwent a large renovation. Now, over 18 pickleball courts are available to the community from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily from March till December.

The renovation cost over $500,000 and included the installation of a 12-layer cushioned surface, expansion of courts and Cincinnati Parks added new LED lights for nighttime play. Ball barriers, benches and new gates were also added. All the upgrades will help ensure the site can host more pickleball tournaments in the future.

Upper Line YMCA Hires Full-Time Pickleball Instructor

Vista.Today’s Leah Mikulich recently reported the YMCA of Greater Brandywine hired Tim Irwin to the Upper Main Line YMCA in Berwyn to lead the Y’s new pickleball program.

With interest in the sport also growing in Pennsylvania, Irwin is transitioning from his part-time role to meet the need for pickleball instruction. The Y offers pickleball clinics and lessons along with indoor and outdoor courts across Chester County with a YMCA of Greater Brandywine membership.


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John Reecer

John Reecer is an assistant editor at Peake Media.

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