Pickleball, one of the fastest-growing sports in America, has made its mark on Chapel Hill.
Chapel Hill Pickleball, which partnered with Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation in 2012, promotes local pickleball and offers programming across the area.
Jennifer Johnson, a USA pickleball ambassador for Chapel Hill, said that the mid-Atlantic region is one of the fastest-growing sections of the country in regards to pickleball participation.
“When you pick up another sport, you typically have to get lessons and you have to work hard to be good at that sport,” Johnson said. “Pickleball is a sport that any person at any level can get about an hour of an intro class and they can go off and start playing.”
Local pickleball players can use the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation tennis courts and pickleball courts. The Town recently announced renovations at some of those facilities, which will take place at the Ephesus Park pickleball and tennis courts, as well as tennis courts located at Cedar Falls Park and Hargraves Park.
“The courts at Ephesus Park and Cedar Falls need major repairs to be quality courts,” said Kevin Robinson, park maintenance superintendent. “Their current condition is not ideal and we look forward to making them courts that the community can be proud of.”
It's unclear when repairs will commence and how the process will unfold. Finalizations will be made once a public interest survey aimed at understanding community needs surrounding the project closes on Jan. 21, according to Robinson.
Many of the facilities have gradually deteriorated due to age, weather and drainage, such as the six courts at Cedar Falls Park, which are about 45 years old. Some potential renovations include replacing the courts entirely with lines for junior play, adding additional space between courts and a paved entrance plaza.
Robinson added that as repairs have been made, there has been an increase in participation.
“I've noticed more people under the age of 50 than ever before,” Johnson said. “We're getting a lot of younger people who are coming out which is great.”
UNC student Sarah Mcgee said her mother introduced her to pickleball.
“My mom picked it up one summer after it was introduced at a camp she worked at,” Mcgee said. “She loved it so much she got the whole family playing it when we came back for Thanksgiving break this past year.”
Mcgee said she is excited about the renovations and hopes it will allow more people access to play.
“I think young people are starting to pick up racquet sports now because they realize that you can start at any age and it is such a fun opportunity,” Mcgee said.
Johnson said there are numerous physical and mental benefits for players, and the sport serves as a way to build camaraderie between players and bond with friends.
“It's more about the people than it is about the game," Johnson said.
Robinson said Parks and Recreation will continue to provide the best courts they can based on resources and demand.
“We continue to engage with our community leaders in tennis and pickleball and get their feedback on how to move forward with our facilities in an effort to provide an enjoyable experience for all of our participants.”
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