West Kelowna snowbirds will now be able to play a popular southern United States sport year-round.
Members of the Central Okanagan Pickleball Association were on hand Tuesday as Mayor Doug Findlater cut the ribbon to officially open four brand new pickleball courts outside Lakeview Heights Community Hall.
Pickleball is a racquet sport that is similar to tennis, but played on a court with smaller dimensions and with a slower-moving wiffle ball and hard paddle.
Jim Saunders is in the process of forming an official pickleball club on the Westside.
He said that in the past pickleball players had attempted to play their sport on tennis or badminton courts—something that wasn’t always welcomed by players of the other sports.
“There has been conflict in the past and that will be resolved with courts like these,” said Saunders.
“I could certainly see why tennis players could get upset: Pickleball is getting to be so popular, it’s starting to encroach on what they do. I think it’s really progressive of the District of West Kelowna to see that, identify the need and put the facility in place.”
Saunders said that currently the sport is enjoyed primarily by the gray-haired crowd.
“Right now it’s definitely most popular with those 50 and up, but it is going to be a young person’s sport after a while—the best player in the world is from Seattle, he’s 22.
“We have over 150 people playing pickleball in Kelowna and West Kelowna. By the end of the year, I think we’ll probably have 75 members on the Westside.”
Three of the new courts are inside of a dedicated pickleball playing surface, enclosed by a chain link fence. Adjacent to that is a multi-use facility, which has lines for one additional pickleball court.
“We heard that pickleball was a big interest, but there was still some interest in maintaining multi-use. That’s why you see this setup,” said the district’s recreation and culture supervisor, Annette Beaudreau.
Beaudreau said part of the reason behind creating the pickleball playing surfaces was also to reduce conflict between tennis players and pickleball enthusiasts.
“(Pickleball players) would try to double line a tennis court—it created some conflict and confusion for players because there were so many lines.”
Beaudreau added that the district created pickleball courts on a trial basis at the former Mount Boucherie practice tennis court area. The courts have been well used and were recently the site of a tournament that hosted players from across western Canada.
According to Findlater, the renovations for the pickleball courts and multi-use playing surface at Lakeview Heights Community Hall cost the district $95,000.