Jul 13, 2023 - Things to Do

Pickleball boom hits Twin Cities public parks

Number of pickleball courts in U.S. cities
Data: Trust for Public Land. Chart: Alice Feng/Axios

The pickleball craze is transforming public parks across the Twin Cities.

Driving the news: St. Paul ranks sixth in the nation for publicly accessible courts per 100,000 residents, per the nonprofit group Trust for Public Land.

  • Minneapolis, which on Wednesday hosted a ribbon cutting for six new outdoor courts near Lake Nokomis, secured the No. 15 spot.

The big picture: America's fastest-growing sport has fueled a sixfold increase in the number of public pickleball courts in the 100 biggest U.S. cities since 2017 — from 420 to 2,788, Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson and Alice Feng report.

Between the lines: Many cities are in a love/hate relationship with the sport.

  • It's a boon for players who are aging out of tennis — and others who dig its vibe —and municipal leaders say they still can't come close to meeting demand from pickleheads.

Yes, but: In some cities, the shift has drawn complaints from tennis players who've been kicked off their turf. Some complain that their remaining courts aren't getting the same level of upkeep.

What they're saying: St. Paul Parks and Recreation spokesperson Clare Cloyd told Axios that the department seeks to meet the growing demand while preserving access to tennis and basketball courts.

  • Considerations include whether there are other pickleball or tennis courts nearby, the availability of facilities for tennis and basketball, and whether existing courts need full reconstruction.

What we're watching: St. Paul's first courts fully dedicated to pickleball are expected to officially open soon at the Highland Bridge development's Assembly Union Park.

  • The Parks and Recreation Department is also considering converting some courts at Orchard and Webster parks and adding a new facility at Newall Park.
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