Pickleball picks up the pace with players’ petition

Onset hosted a 50-person tournament on Saturday
Jul 19, 2022

What game involves four paddles, was named Washington’s state sport last month and seems to be the talk of the town?

You know it: It’s pickleball.

“It’s getting a lot more popular,” Carver player Jimmy Gage said during a pickleball tournament in Onset on Saturday. “I think it’s just spreading.”

The game, played with paddles and a plastic ball on a small court, has picked up steam on the South Coast and across the nation in recent years. It’s been called the fastest-growing sport in America.

Four permanent pickleball courts were completed at the Hammond School in Onset in 2020. During Saturday’s pickleball tournament, 50 players also made use of the two tennis courts, which accommodated four games of pickleball.

Sue Goldberger, a summer Onset resident, said Saturday that the sport is easy and quick to learn, especially as she comes from a tennis background. She said that young people also play pickleball, and there’s even a combined pickleball court and bar in South Boston.

The game is “definitely a social sport,” player Lorren Hollingsworth said on Saturday.

Pickleball has gained traction elsewhere in town, too. Town Meeting-approved funding for the new playground in Swifts Beach includes provisions for a pickleball court. Students in Wareham schools’ summer programs will have the opportunity to play pickleball some days, a school official said.

A recent petition including more than 130 signatures was delivered to Wareham Town Administrator Derek Sullivan last week, petition creator Dan Butler said. The petition asks for improvements to the pickleball area at the Hammond School.

Upgrades described in the petition include a “portajohn,” painted lines for four pickleball courts on the already existing tennis courts and plastic storage containers for nets and balls. The petition states that the equipment and rented portajohn would be funded by local pickleball players, in conjunction with the non-profit CORE (Wareham Community Outdoor Recreation).

Butler spoke with Sullivan last week, he said, about the petition and the pickleball community in Wareham. Sullivan did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

In a post on an online webpage used by local pickleball players, Butler described Sullivan as supportive of the group’s ideas for upgrading pickleball facilities in town. 

“Mr. Sullivan was receptive, but then he called me and raised me one,” Butler said in the post. “He suggested a sturdy, modular, purpose-built gazebo-like structure near the Hammond School courts would look better and stand up to the elements. He even had an example to show me.

“That being said, he’s only recently begun pricing and contemplating how to procure a shelter, and I agreed we’d assist in any way we could to help make it happen this season or next.”

Sullivan also suggested the group examine opportunities to resurrect recreational open space elsewhere in town, Butler said. One example the town administrator reportedly brought up was the old tennis court at 24 Carver Rd. in West Wareham.

“It’s in sad condition right now, but re-surfaced and fixed up like the Hammond School courts, it could become a magnet for picklers,'' Butler's post reads. “It has room for four dedicated courts, fencing, shade, excellent trees/natural wind breaks, free parking, and room for a couple of picnic tables and, yes, a portajohn.”

That’s not to say that pickleball courts are slated to start construction overnight, Butler cautioned, but now the organization has begun the conversation of what could happen to increase the town’s pickleball capacity.

For now, avid picklers can be found on the Hammond Courts, paddles in hand.