A court of their own


Pickleball group requests dedicated courts at Highlands Rec Park

  • Pickleball is among the fastest growing sports in America and the pastime has a healthy following in Highlands.
    Pickleball is among the fastest growing sports in America and the pastime has a healthy following in Highlands.

One of the fastest growing recreation activities in America may soon have a permanent home in Highlands.

Pickleball is riding a wave of momentum, and according to local players, it’s time the sport has dedicated courts at the Highlands Rec Center.

Bill Zoellner, a pickleball enthusiast and familiar face at the weekly pickleball gatherings on the tennis courts, approached the recreation committee on Friday to advocate for making the courts pickleball-only.

“If you are around the courts you see that there are easily three times as many pickleball players as there are tennis players,” Zoellner said. “It’s a national trend and the numbers don’t lie. In the last five years the popularity of pickleball has grown by over 600 percent. Meanwhile, tennis has been losing approximately 3 percent a year – many of those switching over to pickleball.”

Highlands Parks and Recreation Director Lester Norris noted that the town has four tennis courts currently. Two courts were resurfaced for tennis earlier this year and two that need to be resurfaced in the coming year.

He asked the committee for a recommendation regarding making the two courts to be resurfaced into six pickleball-only courts.

“If we resurface the two courts for tennis and then use them for pickleball, you can only fit four pickleball courts,” Norris said. “If we use that space for pickleball exclusively, we can fit six pickleball courts.”

Norris estimated the cost to resurface the courts at $120,000 with an additional cost for two more pickleball nets and dividers if the town decided to go the pickleball only route.

Commissioner Marc Hehn, who serves on the rec committee, asked if the local tennis players were aware of the possible loss of two courts and if they opposed the idea.

“The tennis folks would love to keep four courts, but they realize that the numbers just don’t support that,” Norris said. “Some of the regular tennis players even signed a petition to go forward with building pickleball courts on that space because they play both sports.”

Zoellner added that the nature of Highlands’ population makes the move toward pickleball and away from tennis an easy transition.

“We have a lot of older folks and a lot of baby boomers that are now retiring, and pickleball requires similar skills to tennis but it’s easier on the body,” Zoellner said. “Some of us can’t move like we used to, but we still have the hand-eye coordination and we still love to play and be active. The numbers tell the story, pickleball is growing in popularity, especially with retired people and seniors.”

At the recommendation of the rec committee, the proposal to turn two tennis courts into six pickleball-only courts was recommended to go before the full town board of commissioners at the board meeting on Sept. 17.