Jan 26, 2022 - Sports

Atlanta pickleball players want more court time

Illustration of a pickleball paddle hitting an exploding ball

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Atlanta’s parks are sorely lacking options for pickleball players compared to the rest of the metro region.

  • And there’s no time like the present to act, local fans of the booming sport say.

Driving the news: Players and advocates packed the public comments during last week’s Atlanta City Council meeting and urged city officials to include pickleball lines when the parks department restripes tennis courts at Piedmont Park.

Catch up quick: In the 1960s, two friends near Seattle blended badminton, Ping-Pong, Wiffle Ball and tennis and created a high-speed, low-impact sport that can be enjoyed by children, seniors and everyone in between.

  • Long popular in places like Florida and California, pickleball won the hearts of thousands of people looking for new pastimes during the pandemic and now has two professional tours competing for talent and eyeballs.

Details: Some parks in Alpharetta, Johns Creek and Tucker and facilities like the DeKalb Tennis Center have pickleball courts with painted lines and regulation-size nets, says Anne Clarke, an instructor whose business card reads “Pickleball Queen.”

  • In Atlanta, players use painter’s tape or chalk to mark courts at Piedmont Park, where 30 to 40 people play on Friday and Saturday nights. In Candler Park and East Lake, one person painted lines themselves.

The intrigue: The largest city in the state is missing out on hosting regional and national events. The Atlanta Georgia Open tournament, which last year registered more than 1,110 players, played in Peachtree Corners.

  • In addition, advocates say, the city is missing out on potential court reservation fees from people willing to pay and eager to play.

What they’re saying: During last week’s Council meeting, one pickleball fan told elected officials “this is a nationwide thing that’s happening and Atlanta is so far behind the ball.”

  • “The money is not the opposition to doing it,” says Clarke, whose Pickleball Intown Girls Facebook group grew from 10 to roughly 300 members. “It’s being educated on this growing sport and knowing what your community needs… If you build it, they will come.”

The city parks department is requesting estimates to restripe the Piedmont Park courts and "may include line installations for pickleball," spokesperson Yolanda Harris tells Axios in a statement. "However, no final determination has been made."

Editor's note: Pickleball enthusiast Emma Hurt has kindly recused herself from this story... probably to go shop for another paddle. (She owns eight.)

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