Lou Fratesi, center, of the Starkville Pickleball Association, is joined by fellow members of the group, Mayor Lynn Spruill, left of center, and Parks Director Gerry Logan, right of center, to cut a ribbon celebrating the completion of pickeball courts at McGee Park.
(Photo by Brad Robertson, SDN)
The Starkville Parks and Recreation Department celebrated on Friday the completed renovations of 10 athletic courts across the city.
Of the courts that were repaved and repainted, three were basketball courts, three were tennis courts and four were created to be permanent outdoor pickleball courts, a first for the city.
Parks Director Gerry Logan said Starkville was not the outright first city in the state to have such courts installed but was among the leaders in bringing the game to the Mississippi citizens. In total, Logan said the court renovations cost about $43,900. Because the pickleball courts were overlaid on tennis courts, the costs total out to roughly $7,000 per court. Logan said pickleball had become a community favorite with regular appearances by players from the Starkville Pickleball Association at the Travis Outlaw Center and McKee Park, where the permanent outdoor courts are located. Beverly Wilson, who other members refer to as the founding mother of the group, said pickleball was mostly enjoyed by older individuals but was open to everyone. Wilson said she first found out about pickleball, which is similar to tennis but with less overhead hitting, in Houston, Texas and brought the sport back to Starkville. Despite the less strenuous requirements of the game, Wilson said members of the Starkville Pickleball Association were no strangers to putting their feet to the pavement.
“We might be old, but we get around,” Wilson said.
The so-called founding father of Starkville pickleball, Lou Fratesi, said he and a few others initially approached the city’s parks department with a request to tape lines in order to create a court, as pickleball courts are roughly half the size of a tennis court.
The department granted Fratesi’s request, but he said it turned out to be more difficult than simply asking the city. “Tennis players would come by and take up the tape we laid down,” Fratesi said. “So we asked if we could paint the lines instead, and they said yes.” Once the lines were painted, membership in the association grew, Wilson said, adding that she hoped more people joined and played with the group. Wilson said anyone familiar with tennis would have an advantage and especially encouraged young people to come out and play. “We’re old, so you might be able to beat us,” Wilson said.