2014-03-12 / Sports

In a pickle

Local pickleballers press county for their own facility
By Jim McConnell

Dave Scott has been instrumental in promoting the growth of pickleball in Chesterfield and teaching residents how to play. Dave Scott has been instrumental in promoting the growth of pickleball in Chesterfield and teaching residents how to play. A group of residents is seeking permission from Chesterfield Parks and Recreation to convert three tennis courts at Rockwood Park into the county’s first pickleball center.

Local pickleballers showed up in force last week for a presentation to the county’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission, where they found unanimous support for creating a dedicated facility.

“I’d like to see this happen sooner than later,” said Ron Maxey, the commission’s chairman.

So would the local pickleball group, which hopes to complete work on the eight-court facility by summer.

But before the county decides whether to give the project the green light, the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission wants feedback from the local tennis community to determine the impact of eliminating three of Rockwood Park’s nine tennis courts.

“We need to give the people who play tennis there a chance to come talk to us,” said Mike Golden, director of Chesterfield Parks and Recreation.

The commission invites anyone who wants to comment on the tennis courts to do so at its May 1 meeting.

Linda Scott and her husband, Dave, organized the local pickleball group in 2010. They now serve as a regional ambassadors for the USA Pickleball Association. Linda Scott noted that games are held “just about every day” on temporary pickleball courts at Rockwood Park.

“Only two times in the last year have all the tennis courts been filled [by tennis players],” she added.

By contrast, Steve Likness’ presentation to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission noted that the local pickleball group is “bursting at the seams” with people waiting for available court time.

According to Linda Scott, there are more than 400 active pickleball players in the area. When the weather is good, as many as 50 to 60 players will come out to Rockwood Park for weekend games.

That’s a significant change from just four years ago. At that time, Rockwood was one of only three places in Virginia where you could find a pickleball game.

Today, there are more than 50 such locations in Virginia, including local parks and recreation facilities, church gymnasiums and health clubs such as the YMCA.

“I think it’s fantastic what you all have put together over four years,” said Shayne McDavid, a Clover Hill District representative on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission.

Pickleball is similar to tennis. It can be played on asphalt outdoors or on hardwood gym floors. The most obvious difference is that you use a wooden paddle and hard plastic ball instead of a stringed racquet and fuzzy tennis ball.

Its court covers a significantly smaller area than a tennis court, which would make it possible to install eight pickleball courts and a central observation area on the existing tennis courts 7-9 at Rockwood Park.

“There are a lot of tennis courts available and not being used,” Linda Scott said. “Rockwood is all we have.”

The local group estimates that the materials needed to build the pickleball center – paint, new nets and park benches – would cost $11,000.

The group has already received nearly $6,000 in pledges. Volunteers have committed to perform much of the required labor.

“We’re willing to help ourselves,” Linda Scott said. “We have a good idea what needs to be done and the talent to do it.”

Stuart Connock, who heads up construction for Chesterfield Parks and Recreation, said he’d be willing to meet with members of the pickleball group to go over their plan and determine whether it meets the department’s standards.

The pickleball group received an estimate from a private contractor who said the project could be completed for $20,000.

Connock said it’s possible the county’s tennis court contractor could do it for less.

Such details will be worked out over the next few months. For now, members of the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission have committed to support the efforts to build a pickleball center at Rockwood.

“Putting it there is the right thing,” said Tim Mick, the School Board’s representative to the commission. “I hate to see those tennis courts sitting empty.”

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