From tennis to pickleball

WORTHINGTON -- Construction crews are working to convert half of the paint-peeling tennis courts in Centennial Park into four of the city's first pickleball courts.

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The old tennis courts at Centennial Park are being repurposed for pickleball courts. Tim Middagh/Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON - Construction crews are working to convert half of the paint-peeling tennis courts in Centennial Park into four of the city’s first pickleball courts. 

Pickleball is a sport that combines the techniques and rules of tennis and pingpong. Players use a large ping-pong-like paddle to hit a hollow plastic ball over a tennis-like net. Each game starts when a player serves the ball from the back of the court and gradually, throughout the rally, athletes play closer to the net.
Games are played to 11 points and usually last about 15 minutes. Players typically try for best of three games, said local pickleball player Ruth Sieve.
“It was brought to our attention last fall,” said Worthington Public Works Director Todd Wietzema. “There’s quite an active group of pickleball players at the Center for Active Life (CAL).”
The group asked the city to paint pickleball lines on the tennis courts located at Centennial Park. When city officials examined the area, they realized the courts were in need of repair.

The $35,000 project started in late April with construction crews pouring a sand buffer onto the court. They hope to be able to lay concrete onto the sand by Friday. However, Worthington’s recent rainy weather could delay that date.
The concrete will need 28 days to dry and settle, then crews will install poles and nets on the courts, said City Administrator Steve Robinson.
“It’s becoming a more popular sport,” Wietzema said, adding that there are pickleball tournaments in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Mankato. Cities like Albert Lea have constructed recreational pickleball courts, too.
The city plans to either build more pickleball courts or tennis courts on the other half of the site next year. Its future is dependent on the usage of the new pickleball courts, Wietzema added.
Worthington pickleball players are excited to play outdoors and hope to start a league.
“It’s a good sport for people who want to exercise,” said pickleball player Chuck Magyar.
Players fill the two pickleball courts at the CAL daily, playing recreational and competitive games from 6 to 10 a.m., he said. The most aggressive athletes compete in the early mornings.
There are four indoor courts in Worthington - two at the CAL and two at the Worthington Area YMCA.
Nearly 70 people play pickleball at the CAL, said Kris Hohensee, the center’s director. Some athletes travel from Fulda or Windom to play on the CAL’s courts.
“Having courts that are outdoors and open to the public are certainly going to draw in more people to Worthington,” Robinson said.
“It’s going to be a great community asset for all ages,” Hohensee said, adding that many pickleball athletes want to play when the CAL is closed on Sundays and on Saturday afternoons.
In addition, older pickleball players will be able to teach their children and grandchildren how to play the sport outside.
“We hope pickleball players will enjoy and use the courts,” Wietzema said.

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Jerry Perkins plays pickleball Wednesday morning at the Center for Active Living. Alex Chhith/Daily Globe

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