Place strategy

Pickleball courts provide a place to sweat and socialize – for all ages – BG Independent News

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN

BG Independent News

They were sweating, smiling and talking to each other in good spirits – respecting the unwritten rules of the game of pickleball.

“Hit it to Stan and we have a better chance,” one player told his partner, loud enough for Stan to hear.

“Are you coming to play or watch? a player teased after an opponent failed to return a spin-loaded ball.

“You’re either going to be a zero or a hero,” quipped another player.

The six outdoor pickleball courts at Perrysburg City Park were packed Wednesday morning last week with retirees practicing their athletic skills and social agility.

“You’re looking at 70-year-olds who would otherwise be sitting at home,” said Brian Sell of Bowling Green, who plays pickleball about four times a week. He is one of many Bowling Green residents who travel to Perrysburg, Holland and Findlay to play outdoor pickleball courts.

They would love to play Bowling Green, but at the moment the only local courts are inside the community center, in a space that needs to be shared with many other purposes – youth sports, fitness classes and the National Guard.

So local pickleball players proposed outdoor pickleball courts in Bowling Green earlier this year.

The goal became part of the city’s five-year parks and recreation department master plan. But players are concerned about the recently released price of $800,000 for six outdoor courts.

“$800,000 wasn’t what we had in mind,” said Dave Saneholtz, one of BG’s pickleball players who advocates for local outdoor courts.

But that cost estimate was part of a concept plan, explained Kristin Otley, director of BG’s parks and recreation department.

“We don’t anticipate it will cost that much. It’s not the final plan — it’s a concept,” Otley said. “We asked them to look at every single thing we could put in there. We don’t like to go out to bid and be surprised. I would prefer it to be high and offers lower than that.

The proposal calls for the construction of six pickleball courts west of the community center on Newton Road. It’s likely the project would be completed in phases, Otley said.

Dave Saneholtz and Bob Kreienkamp team up on busy pickleball courts in Perrysburg.

Otley recognizes the demand for local pickleball space.

“They’ve been playing in the community center for years” while the gymnasium space isn’t being used for other purposes, she said. “That’s how we know it’s so popular.”

Four pickleball courts can fit on a tennis court. Games are shorter, averaging 10-15 minutes each. Players cover less space, don’t need to be in great shape to play, and don’t need to be super skilled to enjoy the game, Paula Hermes explained.

“It’s so much fun, and it doesn’t matter what level you’re at,” she said.

Although the courts are full of pensioners during the day, they are also used by younger people in the evenings and on weekends.

“It was always considered a sport for older people,” Saneholtz said, calling pickleball the fastest growing sport in America. “I would like to put an end to this. Pickleball is a game that any generation can play.

None of the pickleball players take the game too seriously.

“Everyone is in good spirits and having fun,” Saneholtz said.

“None of us really care if we win or lose. We’re just having fun,” Bob Kreienkamp said.

On a recent morning, Saneholtz said he had lost every game he had played.

“But I had fun doing it,” he said.

That doesn’t mean, however, that some pickleballers aren’t trying to sneak in a friendly strategy. Players are helped by quick hands, quick feet and patience, Dick Hermes said.

Of course, if these are rare, it’s time to target opponents’ weaknesses. Direct the ball at the other team’s feet, have them use their backhand or land the ball between teammates.

“You shoot one in the middle,” Saneholtz said.

“And let them decide who’s going to get it,” Hermès added.

And then there’s the Achilles’ heel – which for most retired players is their knees, Hermès said with a smile.

Saneholtz, a retired engineer, put together figures for outdoor pickleball courts that were less than half of the city’s concept plan estimate.

Yearly maintenance costs for the grounds are estimated at $5,000 – which BG pickleball players said they could easily cover by hosting one tournament a year.

The pickleballers asked the city council to use some of the American Rescue Plan Act money for the outdoor courts. Several other communities in this area have dedicated ARPA funds for pickleball courts.

“We look forward to a commitment from council to fund pickleball courts at any level,” Saneholtz said.

Local actors need a formal commitment from the city’s investment in the project before they can start looking for grants, said Paula Hermes.

The annual Party for the Parks fundraiser, formerly known as the Wine & Cheese Social, will raise funds this year for the pickleball project. The event will take place on September 23, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Veterans Memorial Building in City Park. Tickets are $85 per person.

The Party for the Parks will include:

  • Catering by SamB’s
  • Wine selections by Norn Heineman
  • Beer selections from four local brewers: Brewing Green (While My Guitar Slowly Drinks), Aistear (Chaotic Good Seltzer), Arlyn’s Good Beer (Oktoberfest and Czech Lager), Juniper Brewing Company (Soulshine IPA, Black Swamp Festbier)
  • Cookies from Kacee’s Cookies and Confections
  • Over 20 Silent Auction items to bid on: Yoga Basket, Gardening Basket, Dinner in BG Basket, Panini/Sandwich Basket, Pizza in BG Basket, Craft Cocktail Basket, Lavender Basket, Pickleball Basket, Bike 26 inches, grill basket, Eden basket, Hagemeyer photo shoot, teeth whitening and more)
  • Raffle for Solo Stove Smokeless Fireplace or Handcrafted Handbag Becky McOmber
  • Terrace entertainment with BGHS Madrigals, Jackson Dias Trio (jazz), Grande Royale Ukulelists of the Black Swamp
  • Presentation of the Spirit of the Foundation Prize