Rantoul, Illinois: Think warm: Park district might install all-purpose courts

RANTOUL (rantoulpress.com) — The burgeoning game of pickleball as well as tennis and even volleyball could be played on one court in the future at Wabash Park.

The park district is expected to discuss at its Feb. 21 meeting the possible development of an all-purpose court that would accommodate those sports and possibly others.

Board President Gary Hardin said All Weather Courts, Springfield, has quoted a price of $146,000 to develop a multi-purpose court. It would be located on one of the old tennis courts at the park, east of J.W. Eater Junior High.

Hardin said some individuals have indicated they are willing to contribute to help pay for the cost, but how much has to be determined.

“The board would like to pursue it,” Hardin said. “You’ve got to get the money first.”

Maintaining the tennis courts has been a costly and frustrating endeavor. The courts need to be resurfaced every three to four years, and the park district doesn’t have the funds for that.

“We know that tennis is a declining sport because we don’t offer it at the high school anymore. Everywhere that we look they say pickleball is taking over. People from all ages can play it. It’s economical,” Hardin said.

If the court is developed, it would be made available for use for Eater physical education classes.

Hardin said the court must be put down in optimum weather conditions, probably in the summer.

“The temp has to be a certain degree to put that premier flooring down,” he said. “It has to do with the weather. It can’t be cloudy.”

Count him in

Al Taylor of Rantoul relishes the idea of a place to play pickleball — his favorite sport — in his hometown.

Taylor, who winters in Arizona, said he plays the sport four to five times a week.

“Our pickleball club out here has 750 members,” Taylor said. “I’m trying to get it started (in Rantoul).”

Rantoul Youth Programs Director Andy Graham said the Rantoul Rec Department tried offering pickleball in the gym at Forum Fitness Center, but the lighting wasn’t good enough. He said the department is seeking grant money to for a lighting upgrade.

Taylor, who is 69, said pickleball is appealing to many people because there isn’t as much running involved as there is in tennis.

“You can put four pickleball courts on a tennis court,” he said. “The net is about the same height, but you play with a hard Wiffle ball, and you play on a badminton-dimension court.”

A hard paddle is used.

The complex where Taylor lives west of Phoenix has 24 pickleball courts.

Taylor likened tennis to golf, saying interest in it is waning. But pickleball, he said, is the fastest-growing sport in the country.

“Pickleball is addictive,” he said. “Anybody who plays tennis picks up pickleball really quick. There are a few different rules. People enjoy doing it.”

It’s also a social sport.

Most people play doubles, which he said “is a lot more fun,” but it can be played as singles.

When Taylor returns to Illinois, he has to head south to play his favorite sport. Savoy Rec Center has four indoor courts, and Hessel Park in Champaign has one dedicated court with two others in which the tennis nets can be lowered slightly to accommodate pickleball.

Taylor, who had a knee replacement in July, said he was back playing pickleball three months later.

Leave a Comment