The fastest growing sport in America has made its way to Ellensburg.
Pickleball is a paddle sport which uses similar rules to tennis only with a smaller court and a perforated polymer ball. Created on Bainbridge Island in the mid 1960s, the sport has become extremely popular in retirement communities in the southern U.S., and the residents who keep their summer homes up north are starting to bring it back with them.
Darla Sautter lives in Ellensburg and grew up in Tacoma playing the sport frequently. In fact, her dad, Earl Hill, was inducted into the USAPA Hall of Fame last year for his contributions to the sport.
“He’s a very energetic, organizational type of person,” Sautter said.
She said she takes some of those organizational traits from her dad, and has been using them to grow the sport in Ellensburg over the last few months. She started the Kittitas Valley Pickleball Club Facebook page, and has given several clinics around town about the benefits of the sport and how to play.
“I think that it’s a great workout,” Sautter said. “My heart really gets pumping. It’s also not difficult. It’s really easy to learn and amazingly fun to play and it’s not as hard on my body as tennis can be.”
She said the smaller court also makes it a much more social sport, since you’re standing right next to everybody.
Where to play
Sautter said the community has grown locally in the past few months, and she has had meetings with Ellensburg Parks and Recreation director Brad Case about installing new places to play, as well as starting programs.
“It’s really started to pick up momentum, I would say in the last six months or so,” Case said. “All the parks and rec departments are kind of going through a growth spurt regionally I think.”
People can play from 6-9 p.m. on Monday nights at the Ellensburg Racquet and Rec Center, where they have a few portable nets set up. It costs $2.50.
The sport is also becoming popular up on Central Washington University’s campus. Sautter said there’s a small group of people who play at the Student Union and Recreation Center as a part of Rec Well program. The CWU Wellness Hour at Nicholson Pavilion also have courts available from noon to 1 p.m. on weekdays.
In the Upper County, the Cle Elum-Roslyn school district has three outdoor courts where people can play anytime for free.
Case said there are plans to put pickleball court lines down at the skating rink at Mountain View Park along with some portable nets that will be available for public use. There’s also been talk of putting together some summer programming opportunities for seniors and youth.
“We’re trying to reach a lot of people who don’t know what it is,” Case said. “That’s kind of the first phase of this, getting a solid user group here in Ellensburg, trying to grow the sport, then providing the facilities to meet that demand.”