One of Owensboro’s fast-growing sports organizations is still developing despite the challenges of not having a permanent space but hopes to change that in the coming year.
The Owensboro Pickleball Association was granted first rights to tennis courts at Yellow Creek Park by Daviess Fiscal Court in March of last year, but plans to convert the courts into a dedicated space for pickleball were stalled when a much-anticipated grant didn’t come through.
With a large sanctioned tournament on the horizon and something special planned for later in the year, the association doesn’t seem discouraged.
Rene’ Kuegel, director of the Owensboro Pickleball Association, said the group has added new members to its board and has been fine-tuning events that could help it meet its goals.
“Everything is actually going faster than anticipated,” Kuegel said. “We have the big tournament coming in February, but we also put together a committee for the OPA Tri-State Pickle Festival.”
Kuegel said the association is organizing the “Pickle Festival” during the last week of September at Yellow Creek Park as a community event and possibly a way to secure the future of its courts. It will feature entertainment for the family like inflatables and food trucks, as well as friendly games.
If the tennis courts were converted, they would become the first dedicated pickleball courts in the county. Before that can happen, Kuegel said there was a considerable amount of work ahead to turn the available space into the six courts the group hopes to have.
“They will have to take down a fence and mill down the damaged courts before it will have to be resurfaced,” Kuegel said. “We have quotes for around $107,000 for that.”
Typically, pickleball is played on a 20-by-44 court and the ball is served diagonally with points only scored by the side that serves. Players must let the ball bounce once before volleys are allowed, and there is a no-volley zone on each side of the net to prevent “spiking” the ball. The first side scoring 11 points and leading by at least two points wins.
Pickleball was created in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, a United States representative and later lieutenant governor of Washington, and his family. The origin of the name comes from either a reference to a Navy term — a pickle boat — or the Pritchard’s family dog Pickles, depending on the source.
Kuegel said devoted players in Owensboro have to work around the schedules of their temporary venues in order to play, but it hasn’t stopped interest from growing. She said more than 96 people have registered for the February invitational, some of which are out of state, and the group anticipates around 150 people by the Jan. 25 registration deadline.