West Reading replaced its deteriorating tennis courts with 10 pickleball courts that opened this weekend and quickly filled with players.
The courts are located at West Reading Park on Museum and Sycamore roads, and 30 minutes before the scheduled opening Friday morning, eight games were underway.
One of Friday’s contestants was Temple’s Michael Strouse.
âI think it’s like between tennis and racquetball, but a little slower, but really tough,â he said. “I think it’s a good sport for me: to go out and exercise, to get some fresh air, to meet people.”
Pickleball is a kind of hybrid of tennis, ping pong and badminton, played on a court smaller than tennis and with a lower net using a paddle and ball much like a wiffle ball.
Saturday and Sunday free classes will be given to beginners, but many are already enjoying it, said Helen Moyer, director of recreation for the borough.
“It is a trendy sport,” she said.
The park’s four tennis courts had barely been used in recent years, in part because they were so cracked and deteriorated, she said.
So instead of spending $ 200,000 to $ 300,000 to replace them, the borough council decided last fall to go in another direction.
Fromuth Racquet Sports in Spring Township and the Shields Foundation offered to pay $ 250,000 to set up pickleball sports as a gift to the community, and the council agreed. They were built this spring.
Pat and Meg Shields, owners of the business and linked to the foundation, wanted people to be able to play locally a sport that has been around for decades but is rapidly gaining popularity, Pat said.
Pickleball is suitable for all ages because it is less tiring for older people than tennis and easier to learn for younger people.
He mentioned the health, social and community benefits of pickleball, and said the fields, which were built in honor of Meg Shield’s parents, Terry and Bobbi McGlinn, will be a real asset.
âIn 15 minutes of play, you can learn enough to trade and have a lot of laughs,â he said. “It’s a big, big sport.”
A non-profit foundation called the West Reading Pickleball Association will eventually take over the planning of events on the courts, he said, and this is expected to soon include clinics, tournaments and leagues.
He hopes to include children from community organizations who might not otherwise have access to sport.
And for those who want to try pickleball, it doesn’t require a lot of equipment, he said. Paddles range from $ 50 to $ 200.
Moyer said she heard from tennis enthusiasts who were upset with the borough for taking down those courts instead of building new ones, but she also heard from other people who were enthusiastic about using the pickleball courts.
Courts will soon be wheelchair accessible, a process Pat Shields hopes to be completed in a few weeks.
A grand opening of the courts is scheduled for July.