Even in one of the most class-conscious parts of the U.S., pickleball is proving to be a great leveler as it brings together people of every background.
Show Up, Introduce Yourself, Start Playing
In a recent Vanity Fair article, writer Stephanie Krikorian described how pickleball has even made its mark on that cradle of the rich and famous, The Hamptons.
She revealed how all classes of people mingled on the court, how pickleball has taken off, and issues a cautionary tale about the future of the Hamptons public courts.
One of the reasons pickleball is so popular on the East End could be because most people who populate the Hamptons in the summer have time – they’ve either already made their fortunes, they’re retired, or are on vacation.Stephanie Krikorian, Vanity Fare
According to Lizzz Kritzer, founder of Kritzer Marketing, public pickleball courts in the Hamptons are much like any other with no one judging you based on your profession. People simply come to play without asking any status-related questions. You simply show up, introduce yourself, and start playing.
Last month, Lizzz and her spouse arrived at the Southampton Town Recreation Center at their usual time of 7 a.m. They joined a game with a young couple already on the court.
Being somewhat of a pickleball veteran, Lizzz found herself offering tips and advice to her partner, who happened to be the male player from the other couple. It was only during the course of the game that she discovered they were both from Canada and, to her surprise, learned that the guy she had been playing with was none other than Ryan Pulock, a defenseman for the NHL’s New York Islanders!
Kritzer adds, “Pickleball is the great equalizer. The courts are a microcosm of society here.”
Many Have Their Own Pickleball Courts
Unsurprisingly, many residents in the Hamptons prefer having their own pickleball courts built on their properties instead of using the free ones like those in Southampton.
Joe Murphy’s Smart Sport Surfacing has been constructing tennis courts in the South Fork of Long Island for 44 years. However, recently, he’s been inundated with requests for residential pickleball courts. In the past year alone, he has installed at least 10 to 15 of them due to the sport’s growing popularity.
He says, “Tennis was religion. Every kid had tennis whites and a racket. That was Sunday. You did tennis.”
Things have changed now and according to Joe, many people are now adding pickleball stripes to their tennis courts.
However, due to the overwhelming number of requests, he doesn’t have the time to handle those calls or stripe the courts himself. Instead, he refers interested parties to another company that can accommodate their needs.
Annual Fees Of $100,000
Joining a local golf and tennis club in the Hamptons can be an expensive endeavor. Initiation fees can reach $1 million, and on top of that, members may be required to pay an annual fee of $100,000.
Despite the luxurious surroundings of the Hamptons and the presence of celebrities or professional athletes in the area, the Southampton pickleball court operates on a level playing field for everyone. There is no VIP access or special treatment based on fame or status.
Lizzz says, “You’ve got the mix: the kids coming home, the mean girls in high school, the grumpy older men. However, 99% of the time, people are helpful and friendly.
“I find the people who are out from the city to be very civil.”
Not All Plain Sailing
However, it’s not all been plain sailing for the Hamptons pickleball community.
In the Village of East Hampton, there have been recent discussions about making changes to Herrick Park, which was deeded to the village in 1976 by the East Hampton Neighborhood Association.
The proposed changes include adding new pickleball courts and painting lines on the existing tennis courts to allow for dual use during the summer. Herrick Park is one of the few free recreational sites available for kids to play sports and enjoy a playground.
For those within earshot of the plastic pickleball striking a wood paddle, the game can be a nuisance, according to a recent lawsuit against the village, mayor and board of trustees. https://t.co/q1xfC5KovW— Newsday (@Newsday) May 10, 2023
However, the project faced delays due to an ongoing lawsuit. A couple living next to the park petitioned to stop the construction of lighted pickleball courts and other initiatives.
While the couple allowed a neighbor to install a residential pickleball court on their property, they requested further noise studies before development proceeded with the public pickleball courts.
Recently, the petition was denied, and the case was dismissed, providing the opportunity to move forward with the pickleball project. Nevertheless, the village might be cautious about potential future litigation.
A Diverse Mix Of People
Other options are available for those looking to play pickleball in the area, though they typically come with a fee. Local resident Deanna Shenn, who recently took up the sport, enjoys playing at a nearby complex called Sportime. She finds the $50 price for an hour-and-a-half clinic reasonable for the area’s amenities and services.
You’ve got to be quick though, when places are up for grabs.
“It’s remarkable how popular it is,” she said.
Once the approved permits are obtained, the club intends to expand the number of pickleball courts.
Similar to Kritzer’s experience, Deanna Shenn also finds that pickleball attracts a diverse mix of people, and she doesn’t concern herself with knowing who’s who or their financial status.
“Nobody is dressed to the nines,” she says.
However, she did experience some disapproval at a clinic early in her pickleball story. “When we tried to explain that we were beginners and didn’t have a paddle, they gave us side eye and walked away.”
“We won’t make that mistake again!”
Read these other great articles about how pickleball is faring in the rest of New York state.
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