A relatively unknown paddle sport called pickleball is finding a home in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The game is gripping seniors, and threatens to be end of the tennis courts in Virgil.
A motion brought to NOTL council by Coun. Betty Disero requests the town find out if there is any objection to converting the two tennis courts at the Centennial Sports Park in Virgil into six pickleball courts.
NOTL resident Case Bassie asked council members to support the motion at Monday's meeting.
He said a NOTL Pickleball Club formed Jan. 1 already has more than 60 members and is only growing.
The motion, which was approved by council, will see the town use its online platform Join the Conversation to gauge public response on converting the courts.
Bassie said there has been objection from the NOTL Tennis Club, who think the paint lines for pickleball aren’t suitable for a tennis court.
Coun. Paolo Miele noted the Tennis Club also has a formal agreement with the town and donates a percentage of annual proceeds to maintaining the courts.
Miele asked Bassie if the Pickleball Club would be open to a similar agreement.
Bassie said the club would be willing to work with the town to help maintain the courts, though he pointed out it is still a young organization.
“At this point we’re a club that’s only at this point two months old, which puts us back to where the Tennis Club was about 30 years ago,” Bassie said.
Disero assured council this was not a whim decision to move the motion forward, but that she’s seen a legitimate interest from pickleball players.
“This is not something that was just one quick meeting and — oh, let’s do pickle ball.”
The money for the court renovations would come from a pre-approved budget of $85,000 for two developments to upgrade the current tennis courts.
Bassie noted the demand for the courts would be consistent throughout April to winter, and much like gold if it was a mild winter the season would stretch. He said currently the Pickleball Club plays at the Community Centre, but the current facilities don't have the capacity to handle the growing number of members, which he expects will grow as many players return from their homes in Florida.
In the past year he said events have seen more than 100 attendees at times.
“It has become a very popular pastime in Niagara-on-the-Lake,” Bassie said.
Similar to badminton and other racket sports, pickleball involves using a wooden paddle to hit a ball back and forth over a net.
By Bassie's calculations, the court would need minimal changes, only an expansion of about 10-feet on one side and 3-feet on the other.
Coun. Martin Mazza expressed concerns about what type of questions would be asked on the Join the Conversation platform. He said he didn’t want to aggravate the Tennis Club.
Disero said that’s why she suggested the town ask the community what they think.
She said when it comes down to the difference, it’s really just about the paint, and that if the town’s ongoing recreation master plan identifies a need for more tennis courts, council can address that when the issue arises.
“This just allows pickleball to be given a chance in the community,” she said.
The majority of players tend to be seniors who have played racquetball or squash in the past, though pickleball is a “little easier on the joints,” Bassie said. The sport has even been sanctioned by Ontario Senior Games Association.
Coun. Maria Bau-Coote said she thinks the addition of pickleball courts would be a “great gain” for the community.
“Anything to keep our seniors active and healthy in our community is very very important.”
“I just love to say pickleball,” she added.
For those interested in checking out pickleball, the club plays Sundays and Fridays from 8 a.m to 10 a.m. and Wednesday from 3:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the NOTL Community Centre.