Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports across the country that nearly anyone can quickly learn to play. Thanks to new indoor and outdoor courts, Ridgefield residents have year-round options to satisfy their pickleball cravings.
Over the summer, a new court was installed at the Ridgefield Administrative and Civic Center on Pioneer Street, formerly View Ridge Middle School. The court has already been reserved through the district’s Community Education program for evening hours, but the district plans to make them available for public play soon.
The district wants to have both adult and family/youth time times for play, and also make the court available for school and community-sponsored events.
“Our adult group uses it on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-8 p.m. and we have a Monday group that’s on hold. There are some drop-ins at that time also,” said Terri Cochran, community education director for the Ridgefield School District.
The drop-in fee is $5 for adults while groups will reserve the court for six weeks for $42. Cochran said the district currently is working on a family rate.
“We’re just opening it up now. There will be posted days and the hours will depend on basketball use during school season,” she said.
What exactly is pickleball? It’s a racquet sport that combines bits of badminton, ping-pong and tennis. The court is smaller than a standard tennis court, so there’s less hustling to make it across or diving for the net. And with serves required to be below waist height, an ace is less likely to come barreling at you. It can played as singles or doubles.
The sport was invented by accident in 1965 by three Bainbridge Island dads, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum. The friends wanted to set up a badminton court for their kids when they discovered they were missing some of the equipment. Pritchard, who also happened to be lieutenant governor from 1988 to 1996, improvised and used pingpong paddles, a Whiffle ball and lowered the net. There are now thousands of pickleball tournaments held throughout the U.S. and internationally.
During the pandemic, the game’s popularity skyrocketed.
“I noticed a bunch of people playing on the outdoor courts during the summer. Of course, during the winter, that’s not available. They were redoing the (civic center) courts this summer anyway, so I just asked if they could paint the pickleball lines so we could offer it to the community,” Cochran said.
The Ridgefield School District is working to make the sport available to anyone.
“We have the adult groups going now but the plan is to open it up to families, to have some family open nights so they could come with the kids,” Cochran said. “We have all the equipment they’ll need; they don’t have to bring anything.”
Cochran also wants to have the courts available for weekend use as the building with the court is mostly unused, except during basketball season.
“That would be a prime time, especially this winter when people are looking for something to do,” she said.
Cochran said the school district will eventually host after-school activities, adding that she already has a couple of P.E. teachers wanting to hold youth and adult clinics.
“We’re trying to find ways to invite more of the public in and introduce it to more people,” she said.
Ridgefield High School also has two outdoor pickleball courts painted onto the school’s tennis courts. These courts are in front of the high school on Hillhurst Road, and are open to the public outside of school hours on a first-come, first-serve basis.
School hours are 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m., Monday through Friday. Student athletes practicing or competing on the courts are given priority use both during and outside of regular school hours. There is no lighting installed at the courts, so they are not playable after dark.