New indoor pickleball courts pave way for future tournaments

Construction on Tri-City Court Club’s new courts began in September

The 200 active pickleball players in the Tri-Cities soon will have indoor courts to play on.

Construction on the Tri-City Court Club’s new pickleball courts began in September. A grand opening to celebrate the six new courts is planned for Nov. 18-20.

Pickleball—a cross between pingpong, tennis and badminton—is among the fastest growing sports in the nation, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

It’s especially popular with seniors.

Pickleball participation has increased 9.7 percent nationwide in the last three years to more than 3.3 million participants—and more than 20 percent are 65 years old or older, according to the association.

“It’s easy to learn; it really doesn’t take much. I could teach you in five minutes and you could be playing. It’s easy on joints so you don’t have to be super mobile in order to play. … Plus it’s fun and you can play with your grandkids,” said Shaelah Harmon, pickleball director for the Tri-City Court Club in Kennewick.

There’s more than 100 members in Club 509, a local group of pickleball players, said president Paul Jones.

“Allowing our local group to continue to play and develop through the winter months will allow more people to experience the fun of pickleball,” Jones said.

He said the court club’s investment to develop the courts is huge. “In every city that pickleball has grown and become a draw to their local tourism income, there has been someone who stepped up and made the initial investment. The court club is that for the Tri-Cities,” he said.

Players whack a whiffle ball with paddles about twice the size of pingpong paddles. Games can be played as singles or doubles on courts smaller than tennis courts. Two tennis courts can be transformed into six pickleball courts.

The court club installed an L-shaped, metal-framed wall with windows to cordon off a corner of a tennis court area to separate the pickleball courts from the tennis courts. The walls also offset sound.

“Pickleball is noisier than tennis,” Harmon said, explaining that the popping noise of the whiffle ball hitting the hard paddle and a smaller court size mean there’s more socializing between players. The club worked to reduce the impact on tennis players.

The new wall also allowed the court club to install a pickleball lounge area with benches and a place to hang bags.

The general contractor for the $100,000 renovation project is Bill Haugen. Other work included painting, fixing fans, adding lights, insulation repairs, drilling holes for new posts, installing windows and court surfacing.

Harmon hopes to position the court club as a venue for one of the biggest pickleball tournaments in the Northwest in 2020.

The club can transform the entire tennis facility into 22 to 24 pickleball courts by taping out the tennis courts to be used as pickleball courts and using temporary nets. Such an event could bring in more than 600 people for a three-day tournament, a boost to the Tri-City economy, Harmon said.

“This kind of vision for what pickleball can bring to our community is huge for those of us who play and compete in the sport. From a tourism standpoint, the court club could bring in one of the largest indoor tournaments in the Pacific Northwest – that is exciting to think about,” Jones said.

The Tri-Cities already boasts several outdoor pickleball courts at Lawrence Scott Park and Southridge Sports and Events Complex in Kennewick, Claybell Park in Richland and the Pasco City Hall gym.

“The number of people playing is already expanding way past what our current outdoor facilities can handle and we are not seeing plans for adding more outdoor courts. Having a local business see the potential growth and step in to give us a place to play is amazing,” Jones said.

The court club has three days of events planned to celebrate the completion of the pickleball courts. An open social is from 5-7 p.m. Nov. 18 and includes open play, a ribbon-cutting event and refreshments; 6-8 p.m. Nov. 19 is an adult mixer for those 18 and older featuring refreshments and prizes; and 5:30-7 p.m. Nov. 20 is family night with games for kids and adults with tips on learning how to play. The three events are free to the community.

To use the courts after the grand-opening activities means becoming a member at the court club, Harmon said. Future pickleball events include clinics, tournaments and private and group lessons.

“We promote health here at the Tri-City Court Club. What we’re focusing on is getting as many people active, whether that be cycling, or lifting weights, or doing a group fitness class, playing tennis—pickleball just happens to be popular,” she said.  

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