New Pickleball Courts to Support Sport’s Growing Popularity

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Mid-morning on a recent weekday, more than a dozen pickleball enthusiasts were whacking a Whiffle-like ball back and forth on makeshift courts that each occupied half a tennis court in Anthem Country Club. Most of them were arguably a bit beyond their athletic prime. But soon, with new dedicated courts planned in Anthem, don’t be surprised to see pickleball players of all ages participating in this rapidly growing sport.

Later this year, Anthem will become the first community in the North Valley to have its own dedicated pickleball courts. Pickleball courts are also planned for USAA’s Union Park at Norterra development. In both cases, expect a crowd. [Below: Pickleball courts in North Phoenix]

The Anthem AZ Pickleball Club grew from 105 members in January 2017 to 172 today, said Barb Patterson, the group’s president. They play during limited hours on packed courts in the club and on the outdoor hockey rink in Community Park. The new project means better courts and more hours (the same as the rest of the park), and the high-quality setup will allow for serious tournaments, Patterson and others in her group say.

The plan for courts on what’s now a grassy area, viewed here from the Community Center parking lot looking southwest. Illustration by Elite Sports Builders and EMC2

What’s Pickleball?

Purportedly hatched in 1965 by a bored family with a badminton court but only ping-pong paddles, pickleball has 2.8 million U.S. players, growing 12 percent the past year, according to the USA Pickleball Association. The number of places to play grew by more than 90 a month last year to total 5,869 across the country.

There are at least 40 pickleball clubs in Arizona. Last year’s national championships were held in Casa Grande, south of downtown Phoenix.

The sport can be likened to tennis with less sweat, or ping pong with more sweat. The ball is struck with paddles (the sound is, distinctly, thwack). It’s comparatively easy to play, which makes it popular among seniors and, increasingly, among kids, organizers say.

But make no mistake, ability and strategy are at play. A key to controlling the pace of pickleball is the “kitchen.” This 7-foot deep area near the net is a “no volley zone.” Players can’t enter the kitchen unless the ball bounces there first. Otherwise, volleys from the backcourt look much like those in tennis or badminton. The dink—dropping a shot into the kitchen—is a favorite shot.

“It’s a sport with easy entry, very few barriers [and] equipment costs are virtually nothing,” said Don Trefry, the local club’s ambassador to the USAPA. Two paddles and four balls can be purchased for under $50.

Project Plans

At its monthly meeting in May, Anthem Community Council approved plans to build 10 dedicated, lighted courts on a grassy area at the southwest corner of the Community Center parking lot that had been used for tot soccer games (those have been moved to other fields). The project will include:

  • Shaded areas, picnic tables, spectator benches and a bike rack
  • Central kiosk with clock, drinking fountain, bulletin board, power and storage
  • LED court lighting and security cameras

Construction is slated to begin by September and be completed by the end of the year at an estimated cost of $825,000. It will be paid out of the enhancement fund, fed by a quarter-percent fee on the sale of each Anthem home. Used most recently to build Opportunity Way Park and do the Community Center remodel, the fund stood at $1.6 million on May 1.

The courts will be open to Anthem residents and their guests.

“We fully expect the new courts will draw many new players to the sport, as it will get much better exposure in its new location,” Trefry said. “The club will sponsor and manage a number of events that will bring players from other ‘pickleball-crazy’ communities here for friendly competition and camaraderie.”

“My goal this fall is to get our schools involved in this sport and to have our youth playing on our new courts,” said club member Cassandra Caton.

Pickleball Courts in North Phoenix

The City of Phoenix has several indoor pickleball courts open to the public, including two in North Phoenix:

Goelet A. C. Beuf Community Center
3435 W. Pinnacle Peak Rd., 602-534-4754

Deer Valley Community Center
2001 W. Wahalla Ln., 602-495-3735

Pickleball courts are also planned for the USAA’s Union Park at Norterra development, under construction now near I-17 and Happy Valley Road and expected to begin home sales later this year.

Related: Hockey & Hotel: Huge Sports Arena Planned Near Sonoran Foothills

Pam Olson (far court, left) and Barb Brenkman face off against Cassie Caton (near court, far left) and Linda Rudolph on packed, makeshift pickleball courts in Anthem Country Club.

Help Save Our Community
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our country and even more so this community. Supporting local businesses during this crisis can help keep our community economically viable. Please strongly consider supporting the businesses below, In&Out Magazine's display advertisers, as well as those in the Classifieds section of the magazine (see the full April 9 issue in PDF form). Many of these businesses have been part of the fabric of this community for two decades, not just serving our professional, service and retail needs but stepping up to support local charities, sports teams and so much more. Tip: If you know you’ll need to schedule a service, consider contacting a local business you trust and paying the standard fee for the deferred service. The links below go to their web sites.

Adult & Pediatric Allergy Associates • 602-242-4592
Anthem Senior Living • 602-909-9550
Appliance Pros • 502-501-5501
Business Network of Anthem • 623-455-9630
Carroll Law Firm • 623-551-9366
Century 21 Real Estate - Jeff Huff • 623-223-1221
Creative Home Enhancements • 623-551-5409
Daisy Dream Homes Real Estate • 623-879-3277
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Desert Foothills Air Conditioning • 480-595-0938
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Element Dental Centers • 623-551-5555
Hand & Stone Massage • 623-551-6602
Kendallwood Design • 602-252-3844
Kodiak Roofing • 602-501-7717
Luv My PC • 480-703-6609
Merrill Gardens • 623-201-4881
North Valley Water Solutions • 623-551-0515
Preferred Business of Anthem • 623-551-0523 
Prickett Realty • 623-551-8111
ProSkill Services • 623-551-7473
RE/MAX Professionals - Mike Higgins • 623-640-7502
Rise Above Remodeling • 623-551-2013
Soft Water Plus • 623-551-7383
SonoranScapes Landscaping • 602-842-9948
State Farm Insurance - Justin Simons • 623-551-3700
Storage at Anthem • 623-226-8634
Sunset Cabinets • 623-687-6579
Thompson & McGinnis Attorneys at Law • 602-952-2666
Titan Tree Care • 623-444-8448
Titan Pest Control • 623-879-8700
Wyman Plumbing & Mechanical • 623-551-6688

For more local businesses, see In&Out Magazine Classifed Ads >>>  
Robert Roy Britt
NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites and Live Science. He has written four novels. .

Robert Roy Britt

NoPho resident Robert Roy Britt has written for In&Out publications since its inception in 2005. Britt began his journalism career in New Jersey newspapers in the early 1990s. He later became a science writer and was editor-in-chief of the online media sites and Live Science. He has written four novels. .

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