Bob Kreienkamp starts his day by donning his tennis shoes, grabbing his paddle, and making his way to the pickleball courts. His devotion to pickleball has taken over his previous interests in softball and golf, mainly because the sport is gentler on his aging knees.
Sue, his wife, is understanding and supportive: “This is his love every morning,” she says.
More than 30 fellow pickleball enthusiasts surprised Kreienkamp at the Community Center in Bowling Green, Ohio, to express gratitude for an incredibly generous donation of $20,000 he made recently. This contribution is earmarked for one of the proposed outdoor courts at the center’s west side.
Overwhelmed by the gesture, Kreienkamp said, “Obviously, you all know how much I believe in this whole thing,”
Kreienkamp has tirelessly pursued funding for the outdoor courts since they were included in the Bowling Green Parks and Recreation five-year plan. Politely approaching businesses, institutions, and individuals, he sought donations at various events, emphasizing the importance of the pickleball project.
“Putting His Money Where His Mouth Is”
On Monday, he presented a $20,000 check to support the cause, surprising his fellow pickleballers and giving them renewed hope that the outdoor courts would become a reality.
Brian Sell, a fellow pickleballer involved in the outdoor courts project, expressed the astonishment shared by the community: “Bob surprised us. It was like, oh my gosh, this (the new courts) might happen.”
Others, including the family of Rob Spence, the Hartung Brothers pickle company, and VisitBG, have also contributed $20,000 per court.
According to Kristin Otley, BG Parks & Recreation Director, Kreienkamp’s commitment goes beyond words: “Literally, Bob is putting his money where his mouth is,” she said.
A Pleasant Surprise
The pickleball group’s dedication has been a pleasant surprise for the parks department. While many groups propose ideas, only some work as diligently to secure funding.
“They really stepped up,” Otley said.
However, it’s more than the sport that Kreienkamp enjoys: “Pickleball people are really special,” he said. “You’re only a stranger for about two minutes when you go to a new pickleball court.”
The group, led by Kreienkamp, has raised around $270,000 of the estimated $400,000 needed for six courts. The city initiated support with $150,000 in ARPA funding, and further efforts are underway to secure a state capital improvement grant.
Accessible To A Wide Range Of Players
Kreienkamp envisions not just six but eight courts and also aims to host statewide tournaments. Pickleball’s unique features, such as shorter games and less demanding physical requirements, make it accessible to a wide range of players. Currently, Bowling Green residents travel to neighboring cities for outdoor pickleball courts, but the proposed courts would provide a local venue for enthusiasts.
The pickleball community gathers every weekday from 8 to 11 a.m. at the indoor community center courts, attracting between 30 and 40 players.
Still Offering Naming Opportunities
The prospect of outdoor courts excites players as it would allow them to play during daylight hours in warmer months, expanding the sport’s accessibility.
“This will open up the sport to a lot more people,” not just retirees who can play in the mornings, said Ivan Kovacevic, programs coordinator for the parks and rec department. “Twenty years from now, people will be playing on these courts,”
The Parks and Recreation Foundation is still offering naming opportunities for families or businesses. It would cost from $200,000 for rights to the whole complex to $1,500 for names to be displayed on a plaque near a tree or on signage.
Smaller donations are also accepted for names on paddle signs, pickleball signs, or donor nameplates to be displayed at the complex.
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