Pickleball Exploding In London

Pickleball Exploding In London
by Jeffrey Reed, Editor, LondonOntarioSports.com

Photo: Facebook.

Numerous groups claim that their sport is the fastest-growing leisure activity, but no one is laughing when pickleball players make that claim.

In fact, the City of London is scrambling to meet demands of the local pickleball community, who fill courts at public and private recreation centres and outdoor courts all year long. And with the sport expected to grow globally and exponentially over the next few years, it appears pickleball is here to stay.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, to be honest. In Canada, we are just at the start of the craze,” said Bill Maron, who for 30 years has owned Total Tennis which operates tennis and pickleball operations at Greenhills Golf Club in London.

Maron said the sport launched in Washington State in 1965, exploded in Florida and is now huge in Canada, in particular amongst 30- to 70-year-olds.

The U.S. Pickleball Association says the sport has seen a 650-per-cent increase in participation over the last six years. Pickleball Canada’s Kelli McRobert reports more than 22,000 players are now registered coast-to-coast, but adds there are “many more recreational players” growing the game.

Pickleball Canada says snowbirds brought the game north during the early-1970s, with Vancouver leading the sport’s domestic growth. At Greenhills, where three indoor hardcourt tennis courts are divided to accommodate six pickleball courts, there are more than 450 regular players.

With apologies to pickleball enthusiasts, think of the game as a mix of tennis, racquetball and ping pong with special paddles, a Wiffle ball and less ground to cover than during a tennis game. It’s inexpensive, too – you only need court shoes a pickleball paddle.

Pickleball Canada says the ball must bounce twice, once on each side of the court, before players can hit the ball in the air. The game is usually played to a score of 11, and the winning side must win by two points, or play continues. Tournament games can be played to 15 or 21 points.

Doubles is more popular than singles. That, combined with the fact it’s easier on the knees and shoulders than tennis (you serve underhand) has made it extremely popular with seniors.

Susan Singleton of the London Pickleball Club said the sport was first organized in London through the Huff N’ Puff Seniors Fitness Association in 2010 at North London Optimists Community Centre on Cheapside Street, then spread quickly. Her husband, Peter Singleton, produces high-end paddles through his company, Singleton Paddles Ltd. in London, and works with the City on its pickleball expansion.

In July 2017, the City of St. Thomas opened its eight new outdoor pickleball courts at Pinafore Park that some consider some of the best in North America.

Andrew Macpherson, London’s manager of parks planning and operations, said the City maintains six outdoor pickleball courts where three retrofitted tennis courts are essentially divided in half. They’re located at the new Foxfield Park in northwest London, and at two east-end locations, at Mornington Park and at Boyle Memorial Community Centre.

In addition, the parks and recreation department offers numerous indoor pickleball courts in school gymnasiums and recreation centres across the city as part of its Play Your Way registration.

“Five years ago, you probably didn’t see any (offered by the City) but now pickleball is one of the most popular sports we offer,” Macpherson said. “It’s fairly easy to convert an indoor badminton court to accommodate pickleball, but to build a new court system outside is more expensive and time consuming.”

With the City planning about $54.6 million worth of additions and upgrades to parks and recreation infrastructure, and concurrently with funding anticipated through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program, the addition of pickleball courts at Silverwood Park is in the plans. Macpherson said once word of provincial funding materializes, then the City will work with the London Pickleball Club in the design of the new courts.

Earlier when discussing parks infrastructure funding and the growth of pickleball in London, Jon-Paul McGonigle, a City division manager of culture, special events and sport services, there are “not a lot of days in my life at Parks and Recreation when pickleball is not part of a discussion. It’s a sport that has exploded in the past few years.”

A local ownership group recently purchased Greenhills from ClubLink Corporation, and they plan to keep growing with the sport.

Maron said when Total Tennis took over operations of the Greenhills indoor and outdoor courts from ClubLink in January 2018, “Pickleball wasn’t even part of our plan. We threw down two courts. But since then it has grown like wildfire.”


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About jeffreyreed

A leading Canadian communications professional. Corporate office http://www.JeffreyReedReporting.com established 1989. Publisher/Editor of this website and https://londonontariogolf.com.

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