Combining elements of badminton, tennis and ping pong, it’s among the fastest growing sports in the country. Two to four people can play with a paddle and a whiffle ball. The game can be relaxed and slow, or fast and ferocious. It’s become a wildly popular sport in Grand Junction.
In just a few years, the pickleball scene in Grand Junction has gone from just a handful of players on a few modified tennis courts to over 11 dedicated pickleball courts in the area. When the city decided to renovate Lincoln Park, they wanted to meet the demand of the rapidly growing enthusiasts.
Reopened in 2014 as the Lincoln Park Tennis and Pickleball Complex, the park now features four pickleball courts, four regulation tennis courts and four “quick start” courts for youth tennis programs. On any given day, you’ll see dozens of players dashing around, laughing and enjoying the instant community of the sport. The city also put three pickleball courts inside the Lincoln Park barn for indoor play. Even bad weather can’t slow those picklers down.
While seasoned players can enjoy the courts at Lincoln Park, beginners can head over to the Pineridge Park tennis courts in the Redlands on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings where they can learn the game with other newcomers. George Gerson, local pickleball champion and fanatic, often offers “clinics” here. Beginners can learn the rules of the game and basic strategy. The Intermediate level clinics delve deeper into strategy including court positioning, third shot strategy, dinking, court communication and teamwork.
When you’re ready for the big leagues, there are a number of tournaments in the area including the Western Slope Pickleball Championship and the Alpine Bank Western Slope Pickleball Series Tournament. There are also a variety of national tournaments including a number of opportunities for Baby Boomers. In 2013, pickleball was admitted to the National Senior Games. It’s the first new sport added in over 20 years.
The National Veterans Golden Age Games announced that pickleball will be a medal event in their 2017 games. All ages can enjoy competing in the US Open Pickleball Championships, including a Kids Day for young players. With so much enthusiasm around the sport, Grand Junction is planning to add even more pickleball courts in the future, including a master plan for Matchett Park. This 205-acre section of property is off Patterson and 28 1/4 roads and will include up to 12 pickleball courts. Up to 75 percent of the project will be funded by a Great Outdoors Colorado grant.
With so many new opportunities, it’s little wonder that Grand Junction is fast becoming the pickleball capital of the Western Slope. Catch pickleball fever! For updates and information about local events, visit the Western Slope Pickleballers on Facebook.