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Pickleball coming to Heartland Park

Six pickleball courts will replace unusued tennis courts at Heartland Park. At left, Sandy and Lanny Jones challenge Sue Jackson and Sherry Pusse in a friendly game of pickleball. A group plays three times a week. (Photos by Shannon Geisen/Enterprise)

Heartland Park's tennis court soon will be converted into six pickleball courts.

Last year, a group of local pickleball players approached the Hubbard County Parks and Recreation Board about the possibility. About 20 people signed letters of support.

"The tennis court up there does not get used a lot for tennis because the concrete surface is hard on knees and ankles and legs," said Land Commissioner Mark "Chip" Lohmeier in a phone interview. "Most people play at Depot Park, so we contacted the Park Rapids Tennis Association and the Lions Club, who originally funded most of the development of the (Heartland Park) tennis courts, to see if they had any grave concerns about converting that to pickleball courts. Neither one of them did."

Last week, the Hubbard County Board approved a $3,288 quote (plus $212 for shipping) from Douglas Sports Equipment of Eldridge, Iowa for pickleball sleeves, posts, nets, an adjustable center strap and center court anchor.

Commissioners also accepted the low quote from Welch Tennis of Sun City, Fla. in the amount of $7,553 (plus $796 for shipping) for court surfacing paint.

There is room for six pickleball courts at the site. Lohmeier said county staff is doing most of the work. He's still acquiring quotes for cement. "We've got to drill holes for the new posts and there's a few cracks that we want to touch up a little bit so it doesn't affect the play," he said.

Once that's complete, they will paint the surface with PicklePave. "It's kind of an acrylic, thick, heavy paint that's good for pickleball courts," he explained.

Lohmeier anticipates the work will be done in late June or early July.

Popularity of pickleball

Pickleball can be played by singles or doubles. According to the USA Pickleball Association, new players can learn the basic rules quickly in a single session. No special apparel is needed — just something comfortable and appropriate for a court sport. Equipment is inexpensive and easily portable. The game can be played by all ages.

Larry Bexell was among the local players who advocated for the new pickleball courts at Heartland Park.

"There was a bunch of us," he said, adding there are currently pickleball courts in Detroit Lakes, Perham, Wadena, Walker and Bemidji.

"We were basically without any in the summertime, except for these," Bexell said.

Itascatur Outdoor Activity Club laid out the yellow lines for the first pickleball court at Heartland Park. Bexell said his group asked for permission to put in another set of lines.

"We've been playing here the last two summers, then we decided to get something going with the parks department," said Don Catlin, another avid player. "What this does is it creates quickness and fast feet. Lots of the kids like it because they can go through the games real fast."

Many of the current players are snowbirds, roughly 65 to 75 years old, Catlin said, but "there's no reason why a family can't come over here in the evening and try it out."

Bexell said a grandpa and grandson played last week. "It's something that appeals to all age groups," he said.

Carl Drury started playing pickleball three years ago. Catlin taught him how to put a spin on the ball. "He's got a wicked spin," Catlin said.

"Now he's sorry he taught me," Drury joked.

It's all in good fun. "We don't even remember who wins or who loses. We're having fun and exercise, and it's a good time," Drury said.

The local group play Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays starting at 8:30 a.m. All are welcome to join the friendly competition. For more information, call Bexell at 699-3876.