Groundbreaking held for new pickleball courts

Groundbreaking held for new pickleball courts
Teri Stein

A groundbreaking ceremony with New Philadelphia Mayor Joel Day, members of the Tuscora Park Foundation and members of the T-County Pickleball Club was held at Tuscora Park on Aug. 8, which happened to be National Pickleball Day.


The Vasco Group, which installs many sports complexes, didn’t waste any time getting started on four new pickleball courts to be installed at Tuscora Park near the tennis courts.

They nearly had the site down to sub grade before they stopped for lunch to make way for the official groundbreaking ceremony with New Philadelphia Mayor Joel Day, members of the Tuscora Park Foundation and members of the T-County Pickleball Club.

The timing was right because Monday, Aug. 8 was National Pickleball Day. The sport was invented in 1965 in the state of Washington by three dads whose children were bored. The sport combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong and is played on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net.

“(The pickleball courts) came about because the local pickleball community wanted it. They made their case to us when I was the park board president two or three years ago,” said Mike Ernest, a member of the Tuscora Park Foundation, which raised funds for the project.

The foundation, a separate not-for-profit 501(c)(3), supports the entire City of New Philadelphia Parks and Recreation Department by assisting in the raising, acquisition and acceptance of funds for its present and future needs.

When the pickleball group approached the board, they came prepared with a video and a slideshow presentation.

“When they came in, none of us on the board knew anything about what pickleball even was. They came and they educated us on it,” Ernest said. “I actually became a player after that. And it became clear to not only me, but to (city parks superintendent) Rod Miller as well, that this is really very popular and it is not just a passing fad.”

The organization always has projects in the pipeline, but they wanted to make the new pickleball courts a priority.

“And the pickleball community wanted to make it a priority, so it just came together at the right time,” Ernest said.

Ted Metcalf of New Philadelphia started playing pickleball in May, and he’s already lost 32 pounds.

“It’s the best workout I’ve been able to do in 20 years,” Metcalf said, even though he does go to a gym. “The quickness and agility get the heart rate up; I love the game.”

He was introduced to the sport after golfing with a friend in Florida.

“He said he was playing pickleball tomorrow and asked me if I wanted to play,” Metcalf said.

Metcalf had never heard of the sport, but he said he was hooked once he tried the game.

Anyone interested in learning pickleball can visit Tuscora Park on Monday, Wednesday or Saturday from about 7:30-10 a.m. when the group improvises play on the existing tennis courts.

“All you have to do is show up. We will show you the ropes, how to hit the ball and the court areas,” Metcalf said.

The YMCA in Dover also is hosting pickleball games each week.

Metcalf believes within 10 years the sport will be adopted by high schools because of the hand-eye coordination skills it develops and the agility.

“It’s a sport for people of all ages,” Metcalf said.

Joy Dawson of New Philadelphia brought her three grandsons — Liam, 11; Finn, 5; and Henry Dawson, 9 — to the groundbreaking, and then they played some pickleball afterward.

“We all like it because it’s just really great exercise,” Joy Dawson said. “A couple of them have played some tennis too, so this was just a natural spin-off from tennis to play some pickleball.”

The game of pickleball can be played in a short amount of time.

“Usually, you can play one whole game in like 15 minutes, so it’s fun,” Dawson said. “And it’s easy because you don’t have to arrange partners. You just come here and play with whoever’s here.”

Though the game is similar to tennis, rackets are not used.

“We are just using pickleball paddles, and then we have Wiffle balls that we use as the ball. They don’t bounce as high. I think for kids it’s a little bit easier to control the pickleball paddle than it is a tennis racket. I think the game is a little easier to learn,” Dawson said.

Ernest said the Tuscora Park Foundation would be open to further contributions to the pickleball fund. The courts will be fenced and lighted, and the foundation has the money to cover that. There are some enhancements they would like to make.

“The goal would be eventually to add a small set of permanent bleachers as well,” Ernest said. “I know from playing out here, even with four courts, it’s possible you could have folks that want to sit out a little bit.”

An official from Vasco said once they get to the sub grade, stone will be put in place and the courts will be formed of asphalt.

Watch the pickleball courts progress near the tennis courts. The new courts could be finished in a matter of weeks.

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