Westonka, Minnesota: Pickleball growing in popularity in community

Since its opening a few months ago, the Westonka Activity Center has been growing in popularity. Along with it, one activity in particular has stood out in its growth: pickleball.

Pickleball is a sport not unlike tennis or racquetball, in which players use paddles for gameplay on a smaller court. There are a total of nine pickleball courts at the Westonka Activity Center, and they estimate that they offer about 30 hours of available court time per week.

Westonka Activity Center Director Lindsey Rague adds that a big part of what has made the sport uniquely popular at the center has been its accessibility. “You’ll never meet a neutral pickleball player. I mean you’ll never find someone that is like ‘it was fine.’ It’s one of those sports that you play it once or twice and there’s just something about it that just grabs you. And I think it’s the accessibility,” says Rague. “It’s just one of those games that lends itself to mixing genders, ages, and abilities.”

Keith Randklev, a frequent pickleball player and ambassador for the program, agrees with this sentiment. He adds that the sport is more about skill than power, and that people of any gender or skill level are able to play together and have a good time as well. He also adds that the players encourage people to mingle, switch partners, and that they all help each other to grow as players.

“I think the other thing that I would say is not unique but certainly characteristic of pickleball is the pass it on belief. We all started as beginners, we all started somewhere, and so we all help each other,” says Randklev. “And it’s a pass it on philosophy and I think that builds community. Within not just pickleball community but the social piece. I’ve seen it everywhere. Victoria, Chanhassen, Phoenix, outdoor courts that we play. Pickleball folks know to pass it on.”

Rague expands on the friendliness of pickleball players, saying, “Pickleball is one of those sports that if pickleballers are downstairs and you have two or three courts and just a person is walking by and curiously look over, someone is going to say ‘hey have you played before? Grab a paddle, hop in. We’ll show you.’”

Specific hours and dates for play, and also beginner’s clinics, can be found at westonkaactivitiescenter.com For nonmembers there is a drop-in cost to play of $3 for seniors and students, or $5 for adults, but apart from that equipment is provided and the clinics offered have no additional cost, making it an affordable sport to try out for a night.

“I think it’s a great unity tool experience for our community,” says Randklev. “I would say that if people are looking for an activity, and again whatever their age, I would be hard pressed to believe thme joy and satisfaction with this game.”

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