By Charlie Warner, Special to the Independent
With the mainstream popularity of basketball, football and baseball, new sports have a hard time gaining traction. Soccer has broken through, but sports such as lacrosse and mountain biking continue to draw comparatively small numbers.
Now, a game started in 1965 on Washington’s Bainbridge Island has caught on as the latest craze and considered one of the fastest growing sports in the nation: pickleball.
Laguna Beach is getting in on the racquet sport with the approval by the City Council earlier this month to spend $2,500 converting half of a tennis court at Lang Park in South Laguna into two pickleball courts. Pickleball is played on courts considerably smaller than regulation tennis courts. The conversion will still allow tennis players to make use of the court, though not simultaneously.
“The goal is to overlay the current tennis court with two pickleball courts,” said Mariann Tracy, an administrative assistant in the city’s community services department.
A city recreation committee recommended the conversion for two courts, as they claimed four courts might start to feel claustrophobic. If the courts are popular, it’s possible more public tennis courts could be overlaid with pickleball courts, Tracy said.
“Unfortunately, Lang Park suffered some damage with the recent storms, so the fencing needs to be repaired before anything else is done,” Tracy said.
Pickleball is a hybrid of several sports, combining elements of badminton, tennis and ping pong. The net is lower than that of tennis and a wiffle ball is used as well as a typically wooden paddle instead of a strung racket.
“Every youngster in Laguna is learning pickleball,” Madeline Peterson told council members deliberating over budget appropriations Feb. 7. She said the sport is part of the physical education curriculum at Thurston Middle School.
Peterson said pickleball fans are growing in number, listing neighboring towns with numerous pickleball courts. “There are a few of us here to represent the many,” she said.
“I like pickleball; it’s really fun,” said seventh grader Nic Hoffs, who also plays tennis but prefers pickleball. “I just think it’s a good school game.”