Meri Shea, Athletics Manager, notes the swift demand, often leading to swift program fill-ups upon registration opening. She loves this development, saying, “It’s been great to see such interest in this sport.”
In response to this escalating interest, the district is expanding its pickleball offerings indoors and outdoors.
Currently, Stonegate Park hosts six dedicated outdoor courts, with additional courts underway at Oaklane Park and others scheduled for construction at Williamsburg Square Park by 2024.
The expansion also includes new programs like Thursday evening open pickleball at Greenbriar Gym. Indoor court rentals at the Leisure Center and Greenbriar Gym will be available soon, and Techny Prairie Activity Center also features four courts.
The impressive array of pickleballing options include:
• Indoor and outdoor youth and adult classes for all levels
• Private and semi-private lessons
• Eight-week clinics that run once a week and teach and practice skills
• One-day boot camps, typically focused on drilling
• One-day pop-up events, such as “learn to play,” free to the community
• Court rental at Stonegate Park and Techny Prairie Activity Center (TPAC)
• Open pickleball with 1½ hour slots and 11 to 12 weeks of seasonal leagues at TPAC
• One-day mixed doubles tournaments, typically one or two per season, at TPAC year-round and Stonegate Park during the warmer months
Rising Number Of Participants
The rising number of participants, reflected in the community’s growing interest, has shown an upward trend in attendance across various programs and lessons.
That’s an across-the-board increase from 2022 when 511 people attended clinics and boot camps, 236 participated in leagues and tournaments, and 31 took private lessons.
One regular player, Stuart Wagner, emphasizes the sport’s appeal to Elena Ferrarin writing in the Daily Herald: “The quality of the instructors has been very good and very reliable,” he says. “I absolutely encourage people to start with clinics. It’s a great introduction to the sport because it helps to build skills and explain the rules.”
A Lottery System For League Assignments
The district’s efforts to accommodate this growing demand have been noted by residents like Wagner, who will continue to concentrate on expanding pickleball programs. This demand sometimes surpasses court availability, leading to innovative solutions like a lottery system for league assignments.
Pickleball courts were built at Stonegate Park a year after the Greenbriar Gym started its first pickleball instruction program in 2018.
There are seven indoor pickleball courts across three locations – four courts at Techny Prairie Activity Center, two courts at Greenbriar Gym, and one court at the Leisure Center’s gym. Four outdoor pickleball courts at the Meadowhill Park Skate Rink have lighting for night play and can be rented for private lessons.
Additionally, four of the eight tennis courts at Wood Oaks Green Park have pickleball lines painted on them, allowing people to practice pickleball on the tennis courts, although they have to use tennis nets.
“The Learning Curve Is Very Quick”
The famed accessibility of pickleball contributes to its appeal, as highlighted by Recreation Supervisor Matt Papale. He notes the sport’s adaptability to varying intensity levels, fostering a social atmosphere where conversations during games are common.
“For other sports, you need time to become good at them,” he says. “Whereas with pickleball, it takes you a few times, and you get the hang of it. The learning curve is very quick.”
The pace of the game is determined by the players, who often have conversations during games,
“It’s as intense as you make it,” he continues. You can move just a little bit, or you can jump and slam the ball and go hard.”
Pickleball And Tennis
Importantly, the surge in pickleball interest hasn’t impacted the availability of tennis courts, whose popularity has also increased post-pandemic. The park district continues to cater to tennis enthusiasts, with additional classes offered at various clubs.
Key figures within the park district, such as Meri Shea and Cameron Edelman, and instructors like Mike Woldolf, have been instrumental in fostering the growth of Northbrook tennis and pickleball programs in recent years. However, Shea has a special mention of Recreation Supervisor Cameron Edelman and his efforts to grow the park district’s pickleball and tennis programs over the last few years.
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