Pickleball players, rejoice. The Winthrop Town Council has approved a proposal that will provide more courts for outdoor play on a better surface, and perhaps spur growth of the increasingly popular sport.
At its meeting last week, the council endorsed a request from the Methow Valley Pickleball Club to add seven pickleball courts overlaying the two existing outdoor tennis courts behind the library.
The pickleball courts’ outlines will not affect the tennis courts, and adding pickleball courts won’t require removal of the tennis court nets, Jeff Hamer of the pickleball club told the council.
Pickleball has been played outdoors in Twisp, and indoors during the winter at the Methow Valley Community Center and the Methow Valley Elementary School’s Cub gym. The sport is also played outdoors during the summer at the Winthrop Rink.
Hamer said the rink’s polished concrete surface, designed to be covered with ice during the winter, “is not ideal,” and play is limited to certain times. “People fall, the ball skips, and some [pickleball club] members won’t play there at all,” Hamer said.
“We have an underutilized resource” in the town’s tennis courts, Hamer said. Pickleball courts “take up a lot less real estate [than tennis courts] and “you can get a lot more people playing,” he said.
The pickleball club would paint new court lines at the tennis courts at no cost to the town, Hamer said. Club members would also help maintain the area, he added. A lock box would be provided for all the pickleball equipment.
Hamer said that many former tennis players are switching to pickleball as they age or lose some physical skills.
David Ford, has organized informal competitive tennis matches in the valley for many years, but said he has watched the number of participants decrease.
“You’re lucky to get a foursome,” Ford said. There are about a dozen people who still play tennis in the valley, but many former tennis players have switched to pickleball, he said.
In a presentation to the council, Hamer said the local pickleball club, founded about five years ago, has about 60 members and has grown by more than 50 percent in the past year. Participation in the sport is growing rapidly around the country, he noted.
Hamer said he would like to see the sport continue to grow in the valley, to the point where the community could support a tournament drawing teams from around the area.
In addition to hosting a tournament, a long-term goal of the club is to promote construction of a “premiere outside venue” and multi-purpose indoor venue for winter use, Hamer said.
Council members said they liked the proposal and approved it with little discussion.