When summer finally arrives, the local outdoor sports facilities are almost constantly in use. Youth baseball teams head to the fields, golfers hit the links and others lace up their tennis shoes, grab their rackets and head to the court. In the last few years, there’s been a new sport filling up local courts: pickleball.
Created in 1965, pickleball is a sport for anyone and everyone. It’s almost identical to tennis, except the courts and paddles are smaller, and it’s played with a wiffle ball. It’s been a popular activity for communities in southern states like Arizona or Florida for a number of years, and now it’s catching on here at home. “It’s a brand-new sport to people and it’s not something you play growing up,” says Liz Faust, the City of Maple Grove recreation program specialist for seniors. “I believe it’s the fastest growing sport in the country.”
Part of the popularity of pickleball is due to the fact it can be enjoyed at any age. The sport is also included in physical education curriculums at some schools. “The wiffle ball flies much slower than a tennis ball,” Faust says. “That makes it a lot easier for everyone.”
Maple Grove has a few outdoor pickleball courts at Lakeview Knolls and Central Parks, along with indoor courts at the Maple Grove Community Center and the Maple Grove Middle School gym. These courts stay busy throughout the year, and there have been upwards of 100 players at the middle school gym at one time. Due to the popularity and crowds at facilities, the city has plans to expand.
Lakeview Knoll Park will be getting 10–15 new courts in response to the pickleball boom—and there is a possibility of adding parking and restrooms as well. Construction is anticipated to be completed during the summer of 2023. Faust says having good facilities is important, as it gives people a place to stay active and fit. The facilities also build a sense of community—people can connect with other locals and play a game or two. “Having places to gather and enjoy a competitive atmosphere is good,” Faust says.
There are no signs of pickleball slowing down, especially with the increase in facilities. As it continues to grow, Faust says the city may consider increasing the indoor options as well. For now, players will enjoy the outdoor courts in the warm summer weather while it lasts, and Faust encourages everyone to give it a shot. “It’s an intergenerational opportunity,” she says. “It’s a great sport for people of all ages.”