Sudbury creates outdoor courts for burgeoning pickleball community

Greater Sudbury now has an outdoor court designated specifically for Pickleball. The sport uses a plastic Wiffle ball and plastic paddles slightly larger than those used for table tennis. It combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis.

Six courts added at O'Connor Park in Flour Mill, all with free to access for players

The city of Greater Sudbury has opened its first outdoor pickleball courts at O'Connor Park on St George Street. The 13,310 square foot space includes six courts, which are all free to access. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

The sport of pickleball has grown so much in Greater Sudbury that the city has opened outdoor courts in the Flour Mill.

Pickleball combines the sports of tennis, badminton and table tennis, and uses a plastic Wiffle ball, and plastic paddles. Games can be played between two or four players.

The rules are different from these other sports said Sharon Bourque, with the Greater Sudbury Pickleball Association (GSPA).

"But they're very easy to learn."

"People can learn the game, and be playing within the hour," she added.
Sharon Bourque is with the Greater Sudbury Pickleball Association, which spearheaded the project to build outdoor courts in the city. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

120 pickleballers and growing

There is aburgeoning pickleball community across the city.

"We have 120 that we know of, and it's growing every day," Bourque said.

This was one of the reasons why the GSPA spearheaded the project to build outdoor facilities.

The six pickleball courts — 13,310 square feet in total— are located at O'Connor Park on St. George Street.

The entire project had a $50,000 price tag.

Through the Healthy Community Initiative (HCI) Fund, the city provided $9,500 toward the outdoor courts and a further $18,650 came from capital funds. The federal government added $23,500 through the New Horizons for Seniors Program.

'Pick up a racket and start playing'

82-year old Jim Dickson is the oldest player with the Greater Sudbury Pickleball Association. He says the sport is easier on his arthritic wrists than tennis. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

82-year old Jim Dickson of Sudbury, has been playing pickleball for more than five years.

He was a recent medal winner at the provincial pickleball tournament held in North Bay.

Dickson says he used to play tennis, but an arthritic wrist caused him to trade that sport for pickleball, which is gentler on joints and muscles.

"Tennis has a steep learning curve. Pickleball, you can pick up a racket and start playing."

"Some people have trouble keeping their eye on the ball, but after they've done it for a half an hour it becomes natural and they do it quite easily," he said.

Dickson calls the new outdoor facilities "fantastic."

"Come out to the court and pick up a racket and start playing, cause that's all it takes."

Social, fitness appeal

Bourque calls herself a pickleball addict, and lists both the social element and the fitness aspect as appealing reasons to play.

"The social aspect is a big part of the game," Bourque said. "Seniors in particular, which gravitate to the sport so far locally, they're happy to be out and engaged, and off the couch."

Use of the city's pickleball outdoor courts is free. Plus equipment for the game can be accessed — also for free — from the Greater Sudbury Public Library.

The only equipment needed for pickleball is a plastic pickleball paddle and a plastic Whiffle ball. (Angela Gemmill/CBC)

Bourque hopes these outdoor facilities are the first of many more to come.

"We have hopes to certainly expand outdoor courts, perhaps not as grand as O'Connor," she said.

"At Lo-Ellen for example, we have five courts that the city painted there just utilizing existing tennis courts, and we hope to do that in Chelmsford, Valley East and other areas of the city."

Bourque also hopes the outdoor courts in Sudbury will be used to host tournaments in the future, adding that O'Connor Park will be added to the Pickleball Association of Ontario's listing of places to play.

"We've spent the last year building our infrastructure, and our focus has been this, but in the future we'll be able to turn our attention to some of those things."

With files from Angela Gemmill