The City of Gulf Shores and Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Sports & Events recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for their long-awaited pickleball courts at Gulf Shores Sportsplex.
Pictures | Courtesy of Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Sports & Events
The sport of pickleball is exploding across the United States. According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), there are nearly 8,500 locations on its map of places to play.
This list will soon be updated. The City of Gulf Shores and Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Sports & Events recently held a groundbreaking ceremony for their long-awaited pickleball courts.
“As pickleball emerges into one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, we are excited to bring these much-needed courts to our community,” said Grant Brown, Director of Recreation and Cultural Affairs. “Right now, pickleball players in Gulf Shores have limited playing options. These new fields will provide our residents with the opportunity to play year-round and will be a tremendous asset to our community.
The 12 regulation-size lighted pickleball courts will be located at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex (19025 Oak Road West) on the east side of Mickey Miller Blackwell Stadium. The total cost of this project is estimated at $780,000, with funding split between the City of Gulf Shores and Gulf Shores/Orange Beach Sports & Events. American Tennis Courts Inc. of Mobile will construct the courts.
“We are excited about the sports tourism opportunities these new pickleball courts will bring to the Alabama Gulf Coast, including tournaments as well as regular games,” said Beth Gendler, President and CEO. from Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism. “We look forward to this improvement.”
Construction of this project is expected to be completed by December. For more information, visit gulfshoresal.gov/1789/Outdoor-Pickleball-Courts.
According to the USAPA website, the game was created in 1965 by Joel Pritchard and Bill Bell near Seattle. Their families were bored, so they took ping pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball to a badminton court on the property. Once they found the ball bouncing well downfield, they lowered the net to 36 inches. A new sport is born. Pickleball was adopted as the official sport of Washington State in 2022.
The origin of the name, however, is not so clear. Pritchard’s wife, Joan, said she started calling the game pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in the crew where rowers were chosen from the remains of other boats” . Others have said it is named after the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, who chased the ball and ran away with it.
As for the local game, the Coastal Alabama Pickleball Club website indicates that Gene Beaver and Mike Boileu may have played the state’s first contest on January 24, 1995 at the Rainbow Plantation RV Resort in Summerdale. Keith and Roberta Bisel, snowbirds who wintered at the site, had introduced the sport to the area.
HOW TO PLAY
According to pickleball.com, the game is played on a 20-by-44-foot badminton court. The ball is served diagonally (starting with the right service box) and points can only be scored by the serving side.
Players on either side must let the ball bounce once before volleys are allowed, and there is a 7-foot no-volley zone on either side of the net to avoid “spikes”. The server continues to serve, alternating service courts, until he commits a fault. The first side to score 11 points and lead by at least two points wins. The game can be played in singles or doubles.
Games usually last 15 to 20 minutes. Then people come in and out. This way you don’t sit around waiting to enter the field.
WHAT YOU NEED TO PLAY
The USAPA said every player would need a pickleball racquet, which is smaller than a tennis racquet but larger than a ping pong racquet. Originally paddles were made only from wood. However, today’s paddles have evolved considerably and are mostly made of lightweight composite materials, including aluminum and graphite.
Players will also need a net and a pickleball. The ball is unique, with holes through it like a Wiffle ball. Different ball designs are for indoor and outdoor play (indoor balls have larger holes because wind is not a factor, while outdoor balls are harder plastic and have smaller holes ). Balls are available in multiple colors including white, yellow and green, but must be one color to meet International Pickleball Federation specifications.
As for dress, anything comfortable and appropriate is accepted. This includes athletic shorts, sweatpants, or tennis-style clothing. Eye protection is also recommended.
CONTINUE TO GROW
USAPA membership surpassed 53,000 members in 2021. The last National Championship had over 2,300 registered players, making it the largest tournament ever. The number of active players is estimated at over 4.8 million.
Although Baldwin County has more courts, there are plenty of places to play on both sides of Mobile Bay. Here is a list found on places2play.org: