By Betsy Scott email@example.com @ReporterBetsy on Twitter
Cindy Sullivan, right, of Mentor and Jo Ann Wilson of Concord Township take pickleball lessons at Mentor Civic Center.
The local pickleball scene is being taken to a new level.
Mentor Heisley Racquet and Fitness Club, 6000 Heisley Road, will be offering the area’s first indoor space dedicated to the growing sport — a mix of racquetball, Ping-Pong and tennis.
A small indoor soccer field at the facility will be converted to three pickleball courts, said Brian Murphy, a Mentor Pickleball founder and instructor. The courts will be open six months a year, Oct. 15 through April 15.
“It’s like a drug,” Murphy said. “I get people addicted to it, but with this stupid Cleveland weather, everyone scatters (in the fall). We’re going to have one location. Everybody’s looking forward to it. We’ll have leagues there and classes and lessons and clinics — everything pickleball. In fact it’s going to be called Pickleball World.”
Murphy has held pickleball play there in the past on tennis courts.
“They (the club representatives) realize how hot this is,” he said. “It’s just getting bigger every year.”
A pickleball lesson takes place at Mentor Civic Center.
Pickleball got its start in Mentor in 2011, when residents Denis and Robin Pecjak approached city officials about it, after learning the sport in the south. The first pickleball court was added by painting lines on the tennis court at Bellflower Park (now Edward R. Walsh Park).
Murphy, along with brother Mike and friend Ken Werner, started Mentor Pickleball the following year with four players. The organization now boasts about 450 participants, Murphy said.
There are monthly “shootouts” that fill up a month in advance, and a big tournament each June at Civic Center Park that is expected to draw more than 200 teams from nine states. The Benjamin F. Edwards Pickelball Tournament — formerly Madness in Mentor — is June 8 and 9 this year.
The city is up to 15 outdoor courts. Other local organizations and communities offering pickleball include the Geauga and Lake county YMCAs, and the cities of Chardon, Mayfield, Lyndhurst, Wickliffe and Willowick.
In 2018, pickleball had more than 3.1 million players in the US — an increase of 12 percent over the previous year, according to a Sports & Fitness Industry Association report.
Joanne Zeroske of Mentor enjoys not only the sport, but also the social activities that have spun off of it.
“You meet all kinds of people and there is always someone to play with,” she said, adding that a group of players go to lunch regularly and some even bake Christmas cookies together.
Murphy noted that it’s good for all ages.
“It’s the only sport I can think of where a 9-year-old and a 90-year-old can play,” he said. “It’s great for everybody.”
Mentor Parks & Recreation Director Kenn Kaminski agreed.
“Pickleball is a great amenity to have in the city because it offers adults the ability to be active, socialize and has many health benefits,” he said.
Attempts to reach a Heisley Racquet and Fitness Club representative for comment were unsuccessful.