The rising popularity of pickleball in Toronto has prompted demands for additional courts and facilities to accommodate the growing number of players.
East Toronto Pickleball Association
The East Toronto Pickleball Association (ETPA), established two years ago, is witnessing the sport’s tremendous popularity firsthand, as well as the difficulties encountered in securing suitable spaces for setting up courts.
Mary Beth Denomy, chair and co-founder of the ETPA, says, “The number one issue is that the space available is far exceeded by the number of people wanting to play. It’s becoming more and more popular.”
The ETPA is collaborating with the City of Toronto to address this shortage by employing creative solutions and repurposing underutilized facilities. For instance, they have implemented pickleball court lines on several outdoor hockey rink pads, a process that allows five courts.
Removable Nets And Stands
The nets and stands are removable, enabling the rinks to keep serving other sports like box lacrosse or ball hockey when necessary.
Currently, outdoor pickleball courts can be found at Kew Gardens, Greenwood Park, Jimmie Simpson Park, and Dieppe Park. Additionally, the ETPA also utilizes the Birchmount Community Centre, located just north of Kingston Road, for indoor play.
While the ETPA appreciates the city’s efforts to accommodate the sport, these measures are considered temporary solutions. The ETPA specifically acknowledges Toronto-Danforth Councillor Paula Fletcher and Beaches-East York Councillor Brad Bradford for their advocacy and support.
As the sport grows, purpose-built pickleball facilities are needed to meet this rising demand, according to Denomy, who also serves as the president of the Beach Metro Community News volunteer executive.
“The long-term goal is to build and develop specific pickleball courts in the coming years so we won’t have to be playing on hockey rinks and tennis courts.”Mary Beth Denomy, Co-Founder of the East Toronto Pickleball Association
Two pickleball courts can fit on one full-sized tennis court, and courts can also be set up on indoor curling rinks in the off-season.
“We are looking for purpose-built facilities with four to eight courts, and that’s an important part of this. These would be run and built by the city, and the city would benefit from the high interest in the sport,” said Denomy.
The benefits of purpose-built pickleball facilities in Toronto would be two-fold: it would address the increasing demand and attract high-level professional and amateur tournaments.
A June 14 news release revealed the City of Toronto is considering establishing a purpose-built facility at Centennial Park in Etobicoke, indicating progress in addressing the need for dedicated pickleball infrastructure.
Additional Pickleball Court Locations
It read: “City staff continues to assess demand by measuring indoor attendance, tracking requests for new courts, and evaluating additional locations for the inclusion of pickleball courts.
“Pickleball court dimension lines will become standard for community-center gyms, and opportunities for pickleball will be considered whenever outdoor sports courts are being repaired or developed.
“The city will engage with community tennis clubs operating on city parkland to explore opportunities to support pickleball at those clubs.”
More than 30 new pickleball courts could soon open in Torontohttps://t.co/kveSB8itvA— CP24 (@CP24) May 30, 2023
“None of this would have been possible without the hard work and advocacy of the East Toronto Pickleball Association,” said Councillor Fletcher in a news release. “I also want to thank city staff for working so quickly to respond to the growing popularity of this great sport.”
“All Are Welcome!”
“The club is important and a great source of community,” ETPA president Tom Keane told Beach Metro Community News right after he had finished playing a doubles match at the Kew Gardens rink last week.
“All are welcome. I just encourage everyone to come out. We’ll help you learn to play, and we’ll even supply the paddle,” he said.
The ETPA boasts an impressive membership of nearly 400 individuals, with an additional 2,000 followers on Facebook.
As for Keane, his introduction to pickleball occurred amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was doing renos on my house during COVID, and my neighbor told me to come out and play pickleball. I kept putting it off, but one Saturday morning, he wouldn’t take no for an answer. He said, ‘Tom, let’s go.” And away I went, and the very next day, I was out looking to buy a pickleball paddle!”
For All Ages, Athletic Abilities And Body Types
According to Keane, aged 58, pickleball is a sport that welcomes individuals of all ages, athletic abilities, and body types. It is not solely reserved for former high-level tennis or squash players. The inclusive nature of pickleball allows anyone to participate, regardless of their background or skill level.
“I had absolutely no tennis or racket sport background,” said Keane. “It’s accessible for everyone, and it’s easy to learn how to play. It’s a sport that’s easy to learn but hard to conquer and become a master in. It’s available to all ages and body types and demographics.”
Despite perceiving pickleball as a sport predominantly played by seniors in retirement communities, Keane emphasized that the ETPA comprises players spanning various age groups. The association welcomes individuals of all ages, highlighting the diversity of participants involved in the sport.
“A lot more younger people are playing and enjoying it and adding to it. They quickly become impressed by the older players.”
Catering To All Skill Levels
Derrick Sarwan, a 35-year-old ETPA player, is a testament to the association’s inclusivity. His involvement with pickleball began while he was observing the pickleball players at the Kew rink in July of last year and eventually decided to join them on the court.
“I was walking by and looked in to see what was going on, and they were very friendly and asked if I wanted to learn more about it.”
Sarwan emphasized that pickleball offers different levels of competition, catering to players of varying skill levels while remaining accessible to individuals of all ages. Regardless of age, anyone can readily participate in and enjoy the sport.
“One of the things I like is that you can be playing with a 90-year-old or a 20-year-old, and that’s different from other sports where that’s not going to happen.”Derrick Sarwan, ETPA Player
Residing in the Beach area, it is no surprise that Sarwan is fond of beach volleyball. However, he expressed that currently, he finds himself leaning more towards pickleball as his preferred sport.
“If I had to choose between pickleball and volleyball now, I’d take the pickleball.”
During one of his earlier games, Sarwan recalled earning the notorious distinction of being “pickled,” meaning he suffered an 11-0 defeat. Moreover, he also lost to a player considerably older than him.
Sarwan realized that pickleball encompasses subtleties beyond mere speed and power. The sport requires strategy, finesse, and a comprehensive understanding of its nuances.
“I think in my second game, we lost 11-0 to two older gentlemen, which was very humbling.”
Sarwan advises younger residents to dispel the notion that pickleball is exclusively meant for their parents or grandparents. He encourages more youthful individuals to recognize pickleball’s appeal and enjoyment, emphasizing that it is a sport that transcends generational boundaries.
An International Community
“I would say give it a try, and just don’t judge the athletic ability and what you might see as seniors. You will be surprised and also humbled.”
Keane echoed Sarwan’s sentiments and emphasized that pickleball is developing into an international community with the same welcoming attitude and emphasis on fun.
“You can carry your paddle anywhere in the world and say I’d like to show up for a game somewhere. I’d be welcomed and playing within a few minutes – even if I didn’t have a paddle. Everybody’s friendly and about enjoying the game,” said Keane.
Please go to easttorontopickleball.ca to learn more about the East Toronto Pickleball Association.
Read more about the Canadian pickleball scene in these articles.
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