Tara Preserve’s CDD was looking ahead when it decided to add pickleball courts to its existing tennis facilities.
In January, the Board of Supervisors decided to make switch one tennis court for two pickleball courts while courts were repaved. Now, the courts are open for pickleball players to pursue their passion.
“The tennis courts were underutilized,” said CDD board Supervisor Beth Bond. “We did some research and found we could switch a tennis court to pickleball.”
Because pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, the board decided to add in the new amentity while the court went through the repaving process, she said.
The courts didn’t come from a sudden surge in interest from Tara residents. Rather, they they reflect the desire of the board to keep the community updated with new amenities. The CDD did not purchase any pickleball equipment aside from nets for the courts and does not provide equipment for tennis courts or other facilities.
The courts opened at the end of July, however, heavy rains during those weeks kept most people away from the community center and outdoor facilities.
Once people start moving back from their summer residences, Bond expects more participation. The board is also planning to hold educational clinics about pickleball in the fall.
Tara isn’t the only community to get “pickleball mania,” as Greg Hill, the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club junior tennis director and pickleball professional calls it.
Hill has watched pickleball gather momentum in the country club, too. It already has four designated courts, and Country Club East is slated to get eight of its own in early 2016 as the clubhouse there is developed.
“People coming in to move here, they want to know what the future of pickleball plans,” Hill said.
About 80 of the Country Club’s residents are listed as actively using the pickleball courts and play round robin matches on Fridays.
“There’s been a lot of interest — people who play tennis like to try it out and get hooked too,” he said.
Once the East’s courts are done, Lakewood Ranch plans to look into having a league or hosting pickleball tournaments. As new country clubs across the country are developed, they’re frequently installing pickleball courts as a standard, like tennis courts and pools, Hill said. The USA Pickleball Association’s website, usapa.org, states that more than 400,000 people in the U.S. play the sport.
The game has mostly gained popularity with older adults because it uses a smaller court, and people with injuries can handle the pace and range of play more easily than a tennis court. It also puts less strain on joints but is still is a fast paced sport.
“I played on the pro tennis circuit. I have a bad hip, and (pickleball) works out good for me," Hill said. I can still get a workout. I’m an ambassador and a friend of tennis, but I’ve extended that to pickleball. I like to see the game grow.”