There’s a new game in town at Lexington’s Kirklevington Park: pickleball, a sport often described as a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong that’s growing in popularity across the country.
Today, Mayor Jim Gray, 4th District Councilmember Susan Lamb, officials from Lexington Parks & Recreation, and several players celebrated the opening of six new outdoor pickleball courts at Kirklevington Park, 396 Redding Rd.
“Pickleball is a fun, fast-paced game for players of all ages, so it’s right at home in our active city,” Gray said. “Thanks to a partnership between enthusiastic citizens and Parks & Recreation, more folks have the opportunity to learn and play pickleball.”
Pickleball uses paddles slightly larger than a ping-pong paddle and a perforated ball similar to a Wiffle ball. It can be played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court (roughly a third the size of a tennis court) with a modified tennis net. Players can go head-to-head, or play doubles.
“There’s been a lot of interest in adding pickleball courts to Lexington parks, and dozens of participants signed up for our fall pickleball league,” said Monica Conrad, director of Parks & Recreation. “This project repurposed two underutilized tennis courts to create six pickleball courts, and already we’re seeing more people and more activity in that space.”
Conrad added that Parks & Recreation will continue to explore other possible locations for pickleball courts across the city. Two tennis courts remain at Kirklevington, and there are 69 other public tennis courts in Lexington parks.
“I am so excited for neighbors of Kirklevington Park, and all in Lexington, to have these new courts, promoting community health through this growing sport,” said 4th District Councilmember Susan Lamb.
With a light ball and small court, pickleball is a low-impact sport that is especially popular among older adults. Local players who were using temporary lines on a church basketball court brought the idea of permanent pickleball courts to Parks staff about a year ago.
“Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America. You’re closer to opponents on the court, so it’s a wonderful social activity for fellowship, as well as physical exercise,” said Mark McCallister, USA Pickleball Association District Ambassador. “Working with Parks & Recreation has been a tremendous experience, and these new courts will mean a lot to the community.”
According to the USA Pickleball Association, pickleball was invented in 1965 near Seattle, WA. Three dads – Joel Pritchard (who later served in Congress), William Bell, and Barney McCallum – whose kids were bored with their usual summertime activities, are credited for creating game.
Accounts of how the name originated differ. Some credit Joel Pritchard’s wife, Joan, with inventing the name because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat in crew, where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats. However, according to Barney McCallum, the game was officially named after the Pritchard family dog, Pickles, who would chase the ball and run off with it.