The NOTL club, bursting with 388 members, has targeted late September to launch its expansion, says president Roy Sampson.
The group has three courts that will continue operating at the NOTL Community Centre weekdays, evenings and weekends.
And it will add six more courts open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Friday under its agreement with the Central Community Centre.
“We’ve been on the lookout, as we have for the last few years, for additional court space either outdoors or indoors,” Sampson said in an interview.
After three months, the club will assess how the new arrangement is working and determine if any changes need to be made, he said.
A year ago the NOTL club, which also draws people from Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Hamilton, had 250 members. Now, it has 36 people on a waiting list.
It has seen an almost 50 per cent membership increase in the past year and as great as the facilities are at the town’s community centre are, those three courts haven’t been enough to satisfy the needs of the growing club, Sampson said.
The privately owned centre on York Road is associated with the Central Community Church and “is a state-of-the-art facility, a multipurpose facility, which really is going to suit our needs quite well,” he said.
“There’s a lot of space there.”
Near the end of August or early September, the club plans to hold an open house at the new site, so members can “come and see the new facility and really gain a greater appreciation for the quality the venue itself,” Sampson said.
Daily sessions at the community centre cost $5 and fees for the new location, where rent is higher, likely will be about $8, club treasurer Stephanie Howcroft said in an interview.
Officials with the Central Community Centre could not be reached for comment on the pilot project.
Initially the club figured it would be able to fit just five courts into the new facility, but after taking closer measurements, officials determined they had room for six of the 20- by 44-foot courts.
Howcroft is looking forward to playing at the new facility.
“This is going to give us the opportunity to provide the services that people have signed up for. We will be able to play a lot more, we will be able to appease all the different skill levels,” she said.
“We’ll have a better-running club with lots of space and time for everybody to play.”
Pickleball has taken the sporting world by storm and, besides its surge in membership, the NOTL club hosted its first major tournament in June, which was a huge success.
“The interesting thing about pickleball for me is that it’s as much a social activity as it is a sporting activity,” Sampson said.
And that makes it a perfect fit for the populace of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where many people like to mix recreational and social activities.
But even with the huge growth the sport has seen, Sampson feels pickleball has just scratched the surface when it comes to attracting participants.
“Pickleball itself, I think, really hasn’t fully exploded yet in terms of its popularity. We could be at the tip of the iceberg,” he said.
And the deal with the Central Community Centre could be the start of something special.