“Pickleball is not an old geezer’s game,” so stated Dina Stultz after finishing a set at Carson’s Multi-use Athletic Center, affectionately known simply as the MAC. She wants to let everyone know that pickleball is a serious game and can help in relieving all sorts health problems including reversing or slowing bone density issues, according to her medical doctor.
The Sports and Fitness Association claims almost 2.5 million fans picked up their specially designed rackets and holey balls in 2015 to converge on courts worldwide. Today, the sport is considered one of the fastest growing in the U.S. and is gaining even more popularity worldwide. While it may not be considered an old geezers game, 75 percent of the core players are over 55.
If you are familiar with ping-pong, badminton, and tennis, pickleball will be easy to learn. It’s less stressful on the body than tennis, but more active than ping pong. And, according to studies, if you play the game for one-hour, you can burn 600 calories without placing undue stress on joints and muscles that seem not to work as well after a certain age. Four pickleball courts can fit on one tennis court, so running is reduced and there is more social interaction between players.
Dave Whitefield, the area ambassador for the U.S. Pickleball Association, and his wife Juana Beguelin discovered the sport three years ago when the pickleball rage found its way to Carson City and have turned it into not just a chance to enjoy aerobic exercise, but to meet new friends. Both love to teach the sport and use their own personal court for free lessons.
Whitefield stated, “I retired in 2012 and was never a “gym rat,” but I I did play tennis. I was aware I needed more exercise so took up pickleball because it didn’t look overly strenuous.”
Much to his amazement, he found that pickleball can be a good form of aerobic exercise and after each 10 minute game, he’s ready to take a break, sometimes playing 3-4 hours a day.
The MAC staff reacted to the trend making red line changes to the indoor basketball courts to accommodate players. Today, there are about 300 pickleball enthusiasts in Northern Nevada who come often to the MAC to play on the 12 courts whether for exercise or in tournaments. The early birds can begin at 6:30 am while those who wish to enjoy a bit more sleep, can drop in until 1:30 pm Monday-Friday.
Tuesday and Friday, players can use the courts between 6-8 pm and on Saturday and Sunday, open court times are between 9 a.m. until noon. Drop in rates are $3 for those over 55. For those who wish to play daily, the cost would be $67.50 for a 30 play punch card or $2.25 per visit.
The current mission of local players is to help repair and retrofit the failing tennis courts in Mills Park and Centennial Field that have not received attention in years. They held a fundraiser at the MAC on August 3 and raised close to $4,000 to contribute to the retrofit of the Mills Park courts that could be used by tennis and pickleball players alike.
As with any long overdue maintenance, the existing courts must be completely overhauled – in other words – torn out and rebuilt at a far greater cost than if they had been maintained. That’s on the long list of “to do” items being considered by the Carson City Parks & Recreation Commission.
Pickleball was created as a family sport by three dads in 1965 on Bainbridge Island just outside of Seattle. They handmade the paddles and created the simple five rules still used. Today, rackets come in several shapes and sizes and can range from $45 to over $100. The ball is a simple plastic ball full of holes that has quite the bounce. No fancy form-fitting clothes needed.
As the sport continues to grow, it can become an economic driver as tournaments are planned. Currently, the Truckee Meadows Pickleball Club holds a Carson City Spring Fling and Capital Classic Tournament attracting about a 100 players from our region.
Whitefield echoes the sentiments of those who love the sport, “Pickleball can become addictive!”
Is pickleball here to stay? Come to the MAC and find out for yourself just what this simple, but addictive game is all about.
— Ronni Hannaman is the Executive Director of the Carson City Chamber of Commerce.