Sarnia is preparing to open its first stand-alone pickleball facility.
The six courts and related amenities are nearing completion at Blackwell Park, thanks to a $75,000 investment from the Parks and Recreation budget and community grants.
Underused tennis courts have been repurposed with new asphalt, fencing, sidewalks, nets and a picnic shelter at the Blackwell Park Pickle Ball Hub, said Ryan Chamney, the city’s manager of recreation and planning.
“A key component to this project was taking a sub-standard tennis court facility… and in turn revitalizing it into a purposeful community asset,” he said.
Still to come is an acrylic coating application on the courts, parking lot improvements, landscaping, benches and an accessible pathway.
The Hub is expected to be completely operational next spring.
Pickleball is an increasingly popular paddle sport played by two or four players on a court one-third the size of a tennis court with a ‘whiffle ball’ with oversized, lightweight ping-pong paddles.
The ball is served underhand from behind a baseline and the first team to 11 points wins.
The city has added pickleball lines to tennis courts at Germain, Linden and Cathcart parks, but the need for a dedicated facility had become apparent.
“It’s the fastest growing sport in North America,” said Wayne Spitzig, a Sarnia pickleball instructor and national competitor.
He and fellow pro Terry McCallum worked with the city to design a venue based on similar hubs in Ontario and Michigan.
Spitzig, one of 35 certified instructors in Canada, has trained more than 350 players locally since 2016. About six new players take up the sport each month, he said.
The sport is spreading rapidly in North America, said Spitzig, who won silver at the provincials this summer and competed at the U.S. Open in April.
A database records nearly 300 new courts being registered each month in North America.
Pickleball took root among the 50-plus crowd but Spitzig said it bridges generations.
“It’s probably the only sport where grandparents can play with their kids, and they can play with their grandkids and still have a competitive game.”
Additional support for the Pickleball Hub came from a Sarnia Community Foundation grant, a Trillium grant through the Sarnia Airmen’s Club, and the Sarnia District of the Ontario Senior Games Association.