Pickleball courts

Photo by Jonathan LeBlanc

The old tennis courts at the East End Park are undergoing construction to become new pickleball courts.

The East End Park tennis courts in Bryan are getting a new look.

Thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Bryan Area Foundation and help from community members, Bryan Parks and Recreation are turning the tennis courts into outdoor pickleball courts, which will hopefully be done “within the next week or so,” according to Bryan Parks and Recreation director Ben Dominique.

“We had a group of citizens interested in putting some pickleball courts in, and the East End tennis courts were kind of in rough shape and in need of an overhaul,” Dominique said. “And we just felt it was a good fit to transform those into pickleball courts, as opposed to more tennis courts.”

Pickleball is a racket sport played on a badminton court with a 34-inch high net, and can be played indoors or outdoors in a singles or doubles format.

It’s also played with a perforated ball, and players use a wooden or composite paddle about double the size of a ping pong paddle.

With this, pickleball has a 650 percent player increase during the last six years, according to the USA Pickleball Association, and more than 3.3 million players in the U.S., per a Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s 2019 Pickleball Participant Report.

”(The Parks and Recreation department) said it’s an alternative to tennis,” said Amy Miller, President and CEO of the Bryan Area Foundation. “It’s easy to learn, has less impact on the body, easier for the senior population to play as well as those who just enjoy playing racket sports.”

With the recent completion of six new tennis courts between the elementary school and football field, along with the information provided by the parks and recreation department, Miller said giving the grant “just made sense” to put the East End courts “to great use.”

And because players were traveling to surrounding areas, like Kingsbury Park in Defiance, to play, Miller said it made it easier to award the parks and recreation department with the grant.

“There were people from the Bryan community that were traveling to these other communities to use their pickleball facilities,” Miller said. “So obviously, we wanted to be able to provide resources to people.”

Along with the $20,000 grant from the Bryan Area Foundation, Dominique said the project is also funded by private donations and the department’s capital budget.

The total cost of the transformation is just under $50,000, according to Dominique, with $45,000 of it used for resurfacing the courts and putting the pickleball courts in.

He also said the department “hopes” to put other amenities in, like new lighting and fencing.

And all of this is because of the help from the community members who first approached Dominique.

“They’ve been extremely instrumental in this project,” Dominique said.

“They’ve done a lot of the leg work, some of the grant application — they’ve done a lot of work to help me along the way. And I think it’s a group that hopes to be extremely active once it’s up and running.

“So, if there’s people that have an interest or maybe don’t know anything about pickleball, once we get it up and running, I encourage them to come out. I’ve played a little bit of pickleball myself with my kids. It’s a terrific sport. We hope the community will get involved and the pickleball courts are busy, and they enjoy playing.”

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