CHICAGO — The Park District is unveiling plans for many more pickleballs, and you can help officials decide where to install dozens of courts.
The Park District will build 50 pickleball courts by 2025, officials said Thursday. The plazas will be located in parks across the city and will join 80 plazas that are already in operation, according to a Park District press release. But only four of those courts are dedicated to pickleball, while the rest have to share court with its bigger, older cousin: tennis.
The type of court installed — whether a shared converted court or a dedicated pickleball court — will be based on community input, said Michele Lemons, spokeswoman for the Park District. Suggestions can be made as to where the pickleball spots should go on-line.
The new pickleball perks include three facilities where tournaments can be held, according to the Park District. The remaining individual courts will be newly built or remodeled tennis or basketball courts in neighborhood parks, according to the Park District.
Pickleball is a hybrid of tennis, badminton and table tennis that’s gentler on the knee and accessible to people of all ages, said Steven De Mar, a local enthusiast and administrator of the Chicago Pickleball Facebook Page.
“It’s also like poker in that it takes two minutes to learn but forever to get good at it,” De Mar said. “For casual players, it’s a nice, leisurely day.”
The new courts are “nothing to turn up your nose at,” but the promised space for Pickleball is still “woefully inadequate” given Chicagoans’ interest in it, De Mar said.
Shared spaces have left many pickleballers wanting more, De Mar said. Tennis courts have taller nets and quickly accommodate four makeshift pickleball games at once, De Mar said.
Smaller retiree-heavy cities in Arizona and Florida have affiliations with dozens of courts dedicated to pickleball, De Mar said.
The Chicago Pickleball Facebook group has more than 4,000 members, some of whom have worked with the city to paint permanent pickleball lines on 14 tennis courts at Maggie Daley Park, De Mar said. Pickleballers can only use the courts from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekdays and it’s “always 100 percent full with a wait unless the weather is bad,” De Mar said.
De Mar’s group has raised funds to build eight permanent courts — with nets and dimensions for pickleball — in Grant Park, but plans with the Park District have stalled, he said. The game is growing and attracting younger players, and the Park District “needs to get ahead of the puck,” De Mar said.
That Open APP Chicago The pickleball tournament is taking place this week in the suburb of Highland Park and offers a $50,000 prize pool.
“It couldn’t be in Chicago because the city is behind,” De Mar said. “If 100 dishes came here tomorrow, that would still be way below demand. It’s like spitting in the sea.”
A list of pickleball programs offered by the Park District is here.
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