Kati Anderson Fri 10:54 PM, Jan 24, 2020
GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) — Pickleball is considered one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S and the pickleball bug has spread to northeast Wisconsin.
“The only thing that’s hard to get passed is the name pickleball. When you say that word to people, they laugh at you, but when you play it, it’s one of the best sports to get into,” said Jesse Nelson.
Jessie Nelson and Kim Gudgeon have been playing pickleball together for the last few years.
The game is played with a wooden paddle and a whiffle ball on a badminton court.
“The whole idea is that everybody gets up to the kitchen or the no volley zone and that’s when the real game starts, that’s when the strategy comes in,” said Gudgeon.
A group of players can be found at the West YMCA in Howard during the winter months, but sometimes space is hard to come by.
“We also have to share the space with other groups, like here basketball players and our group exercise studio. There’s a variety of exercise classes that take place in there, so it’s not always available like the outdoor courts,” said Gudgeon.
According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, more than 3 million people play the sport in the U.S.
As the sport grows in Green Bay, pickleball players are looking for more places to play and city leaders have one area in mind.
“We’re looking at Murphy Park and we decided that this would be a location,” said Mark Steuer, city council president. He says the city is in the process of approving $250,000 in bonding to help build more courts in the city.
At Murphy Park, the plan is to replace the two tennis courts with six pickleball courts. The most likely won’t be playable until 2021.
“We’re looking at it, not only as a sport or activity for all folks from age 8 all the way up to 88, but as an economic development factor,” said Steuer.
City leaders also hope to see indoor courts on the west side and there’s one vacant lot they’d like to see it.
“Ideally that Shopko building is just walking distance from Murphy Park, so if we had some outdoor courts and some indoor courts over there and recreation center or something that would be awesome,” said Leah Weycker, Executive Director of the Military Avenue Business District.
While it’s still just an idea at this point and a developer would need to be found, pickleball players say if you haven’t played, it’s worth a try.
“I think it would be cool to see more younger people show up and start to embrace it too, because I don’t think at lot of people know about it,” said Nelson.