In a pickle: Smiths Falls Pickleball League looking to expand

Patricia Lynch serves during a pickleball open house.
Patricia Lynch serves during a pickleball open house on May 11 at courts by the Smiths Falls Youth Arena. There were about 40 people out for some fun and games during the event. Photo credit: Laurie Weir.
Posted on: May 15, 2024

The Smiths Falls Pickleball League is in a bit of a … well … pickle. 

They have expanded their numbers so much, they’re in need of more space. The town’s pickleball courts are cracked and sprouting with grass and weeds. Not an ideal host spot for tournaments. 

There are several lengthy cracks with grass and weeds growing through the surface of the courts near the Smiths Falls Youth Arena. Photo credit: Laurie Weir.

On Saturday, May 11, the group hosted an open house where some 40 people – from young adults to seniors, newbies to veterans – were enjoying a few hours of fun and friendship. 

Patricia Lynch is a member of the group. 

“It’s a growing sport,” she said. “It’s been around since the 1960s, but it’s really taking off, especially with the senior community.”

There are younger people too, but the seniors are more active these days and this is appealing to those with squash, tennis, badminton and ping pong experience, she said. 

“It seems to be really growing. Our club has grown quite a bit since I joined two years ago,” she said. 

Saturday’s event was a chance for everyone to get acquainted, “and have a fun day. It’s all about getting to know each other, and enjoying a game we all love called pickleball.”

The club has an indoor space at the Seniors Activity Centre where just eight people can sign up to play as there is only one net. They play in the evenings on Monday (second, fourth and fifth Mondays of the month) from 5 to 7 p.m. and Wednesday from 4 to 9 p.m. Saturday morning, there is a beginner class from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. and following that is regular play until 12:30 p.m. Sunday, there is pickleball from 9 a.m. to noon, and 5 to 9 p.m. 

The Saturday morning sessions for beginners is a “nice way to learn the game and it’s broken down,” Lynch said. 

“Typically, a lot of people may, I find, feel they can’t keep up with the higher-level players so the beginner group gives people a starting point and gets them familiar with the scoring, positioning and certain plays. It builds their confidence a little bit and gets them ready for playing outside.”

They also have limited space at Chimo Elementary School in town, but it’s limited and expensive, and not a lot of room there either. Other local schools’ gyms are too small for the sport. 

Last year, Lynch said they were always outside. They didn’t have any indoor space to play in the winter. 

They need more courts to accommodate the growing number of players and potential tournaments. 

Anne Miskelly is one of the founders of the pickleball club and she was at an April Smiths Falls town council meeting seeking space. “We have been playing indoors summer and winter at the seniors’ centre as members, but it can only accommodate one court – that’s eight people. We have 100 players.”

Miskelly made a pitch to council to use the unused lawn bowling portion of the seniors’ centre, which hasn’t been in use for six seasons. 

“Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in North America,” she said. “What we desperately need is council to help us develop indoor space.”

Miskelly said they currently have “six courts, not 12, outdoor courts, that were unfortunately, not surfaced properly in 2018.”

She said she’s asked the town’s facilities’ director for help with grants, but was told that was something she had to do. She also said she was in front of council for help two years ago, and to this day, still hasn’t had a response.

Miskelly said the tourism draw would benefit the town and the community centre would be an excellent space to accommodate such events. 

“Pickleball could be a money generating sport for the town,” she said, but the cost is “out of reach for us and the smaller groups.”

Miskelly said she’s also been approached about volleyball and basketball options, which she said, they could make a go of it if there was the space for it. 

“Logistically, things take time, but time for our seniors shouldn’t be on the backburner,” she said. 

Mayor Shawn Pankow said they can “embark on a journey of possibilities.”

Coun. Jay Brennan said they should keep this in focus and look at alternatives. 

“Everyone is screaming for indoor sports in the winter,” he said, as he thanked Miskelly for attending the meeting. “I would encourage staff to come back to us with some sort of idea or a plan to keep this going — we’ve got to keep it going.”

Chief administrative officer Malcolm Morris said there are two moving parts to this matter. The town is in a long-term commitment with the lawn bowling club. “We are also doing the feasibility of the Youth Arena … we will be bringing forward recommendations on the future of that facility.”

With the health hub also on the agenda for the town, there may be some space to accommodate some sporting opportunities there, the CAO indicated. 

That was in April, and during the May pickleball event, Miskelly said she’d heard from the town saying the pickleball group should maintain what they have as opposed to building anything new. 

But Lynch said, “They haven’t maintained what we have. The courts are really bad,” as indicated with the cracked surface. “If they build it, people will come.”

Hometown News
Author: Hometown News

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