The town of Grafton, Illinois, will be unveiling its brand new pickleball courts on Saturday, August 26th, as part of its annual Family Fun Day.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place during the Fun Day, which will run from 6 to 9pm.
Grafton Family Fun Day committee chair Christina Petrea said hot dogs, chips, popcorn, and water would also be available free of charge, as were the festivities.
Patrea added the event is a great way to get some outdoor family time.
“We started this event so parents and kids can come out to the park, put their phones down, and just have family fun. We just wanted a community event that everybody can enjoy and get together.”
The evening will feature face painting, balloon animals, rock painting, a DJ, pickleball, and more. Bring your own chairs and blankets and claim your spot.
You’ll also be able to see QEM fire trucks (Quarry, Elsah, and Mississippi townships), a Jersey County ambulance, a Survival Flight helicopter, and a Grafton police car.
The regulation-size court has been built next to the existing basketball court at the park located in the heart of Grafton Hills.
“Our Parks Committee has been working on our parks, planting native plantings, and has installed our new playground sets,” said Grafton Mayor Mike Morrow. “And this pickleball court is part of the Red Hawk Park work,”
Engineers with Sheppard, Morgan and Schwaab Inc. designed the court.
“I’m very pleased with the fact we have a committee doing some good work, looking out for the long-term health and revitalization of Grafton,” Morrow said.
The construction of the court was a response to the significant rise in pickleball’s popularity within Grafton, especially following the Covid-19 pandemic.
As players sought to enhance the pickleball facilities at Ferry Street Field, there was also consideration for the potential impact on the space preferences of basketball players, young and adult, given the increased number of pickleball participants.
“This is a great problem. ‘Oh my god, we’ve got too many people who want to use our facilities,’ ” said Greg Rota, leader of the Grafton Pickleball Group, when he spoke in front of the Recreation Commission. “We just need to solve this problem.”
Competition With Basketball
Introduced via a Grafton Recreation program two years ago, the sport has since flourished, with there now being three courts at Ferry Street. These courts, shared by basketball and tennis, witnessed remarkable popularity, with dedicated players even clearing snow during winter so they could continue playing.
While the adult group typically reserves the courts for their games, a challenge arises during afternoons when basketball players occupy the space after school hours, causing a scheduling conflict.
“A reservation system is totally unfair for kids,” Rota said.
70 Members And Growing
With the pickleball group now showing a membership of 70, Grafton aligns with a larger trend encompassing national tournaments and an expanding array of recreation programs spanning the United States and Canada.
Massachusetts shows a particular fervor for the sport, which is evident in the number of courts across the state.
Attributing the sport’s ascent during the pandemic to its inherent social distancing benefits and suitability for diverse age groups, player Dan Fitzgerald believes pickleball’s rise was driven by its ability to provide safe and accessible enjoyment amid the COVID-19 era.
“It’s Growing. It’s Not Going To Stop Growing”
Rota’s comments ended up being the catalyst for the new courts: “It’s growing. It’s not going to stop growing, so how can we all work together to make sure no kid in town loses a place to play basketball or whatever?”
Although the Recreation Commission decided to work with the pickleballers to set aside certain times later in the day for pickleball, the seeds were sown for the eventual construction of dedicated courts.
Redhawk Park is located at 651 St Charles Rd, Carol Stream, IL 60188.
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