PITTSBURG — Played by people of all ages and skill levels around the country, pickleball combines elements of tennis, table tennis and racquetball to create a unique sport which has made its way from the coasts to southeast Kansas.
Pickleball is a variation of tennis which is played with small paddles and a perforated plastic ball on a miniature tennis court.
With the hope of introducing the sport to Pittsburg, local pickleball players Joe Dellasega and Don Porter partnered with Kim Vogel of the Pittsburg Parks and Recreation Department to demonstrate the game on Tuesday night at the tennis courts inside Schlanger Park, which they hope to see repurposed as pickleball courts.
“I’ve been following this pickleball craze as it’s swept the country,” Dellasega said. “They say it’s the fastest growing sport in America. I was talking to Don Porter about it and we decided to try and bring pickleball to southeast Kansas.”
Porter is a long time tennis player and said he discovered the sport while in Florida.
“I’m going to try and help them get the sport started in Pittsburg,” Porter said. “I’ve played pickleball for years and I like it because people of all ages can play it. From very young to very old, you can play singles or doubles and you can play inside or outside. It has a lot of flexibility and it’s a good game.”
Dellasega said pickleball is unique because it allows people of different skill levels to compete.
“I’m new to pickleball myself, but what I like about it is that it’s easier than tennis,” Dellasega said. “It’s a great way to get kids started in tennis, but I really like it because it’s a fairly easy sport to play and learn. We’re also seeing the older people who had to stop playing tennis continue to compete in pickleball because it lends itself to being able to play for a long time.”
Many people — both old and young — showed up to the demonstration and began playing the game after learning the basics.
“I’ve played tennis my entire life, but pickleball is easier on my body because you don’t have to move as far or as fast,” Porter said. “It’s very similar to table tennis, badminton and tennis. If you’re good at any of those sports, you’re going to be a very good pickleball player.”
Dellasega and Porter hosted the demonstration in hopes of helping the sport gain popularity in the Pittsburg community and to help them raise the necessary funds for repairing and repurposing the courts.
“The goal of today is to demonstrate the sport,” Dellasega said. “The area itself would cost about $8,000 to turn into pickleball and basketball courts, so we’re hoping to put that idea out there and make it available to the people of Pittsburg, so maybe they would like to help covering the cost of the asphalt.”
To help with the potential project, Dellasega and Porter partnered with the Pittsburg Parks and Recreation Department.
“The city’s estimate is between $8,000 or $9,000 to lay asphalt over this,” Vogel said. “If we could get donations, that would be great, and we’ll also look for grant opportunities. We’ve already received a grant from the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas for adjustable basketball goals, so half would be basketball courts and the other half would be pickleball courts. It should be a great outdoor experience.”
Although covering the cost is the main issue, the project already has some momentum since it was originally a tennis court.
“The biggest challenge is getting the funding for an asphalt overlay,” Vogel said. “That’s what we would probably do, but the good news is that we already have a good base to start with. These courts haven’t been used in many years and it would be nice to see them repurposed and turned into something that everybody can enjoy.”
Dellasega said the partnership with the city is helpful, but he is looking to the people and businesses within Pittsburg to help with the cost.
“It’s not something that we would work with the city commission on as far as trying to fund it with their money,” Dellasega said. “With as many projects that are going on in the community, we need private donations. The city has been a great partner and has been working with us. Because of that, we could do this project at a lower cost than if we had to go out and do it ourselves. Certainly they’re a partner in that, but this would be a community-based effort.”
Since the courts could be enjoyed by the entire community, Dellasega said they would be a nice asset to the city.
“The attractiveness to pickleball from a community perspective is that it’s intergenerational,” Dellasega said. “Young kids can play it for exercise and a lot of schools have it available because of the small court size, so you can get a lot of kids participating. With the fitness craze that’s going on in Pittsburg, we’re being more conscious of it. This is just a great way to do that. It builds a sense of community and gives people a place to come, enjoy each other’s company and compete.”
— Jordan Buckamneer is the sports editor of the Pittsburg Morning Sun newspaper. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @jbuckamneer.