Pickleball coming soon to Milford
Tennis, as anyone who has picked up the game will tell you, can take years to master. It would be safe to say that all players — from the weekend rank amateur to Rafael Nadal — think they must improve their game.
Enter pickleball, the paddle-and-ball sport poised to sweeping the nation — a nation that’s getting older and less inclined to make a commitment to sports that require strength, speed and coordination.
Problem is, there aren’t too many dedicated pickleball courts out there.
Sometime this summer, however, Milford will be getting eight new pickleball courts. They’re under construction at Eisenhower Park, along with a new splash pad and new restrooms.
The $1 million project, funded mostly by a state grant, should be ready in time for the Independence Day holiday or soon thereafter, Mayor Benjamin Blake said.
“It’s a sport for everyone,” said Director of Recreation Paul Piscitelli. “Grandparents can play it with their grandchildren. It’s good for any skill level.”
City officials say that these improvements were first conceived about 10 years ago, and about 5 years ago, pickleball was added, owing to increasing demand.
City Hall said that the pickleball court idea got a push from local tennis pro Diane Sullivan, who has become something of a Johnny Appleseed for the sport in the state.
“I found that people can pick up pickleball a lot faster than tennis,” Sullivan said. “It’s a sport in which you can get a workout, and it’s more of a social sport — the court’s about one third the size of a tennis court so more conversations happen.”
She said that she’s approached about 10 senior centers and country clubs in the state and some of them have taken the court-construction plunge. One was Fairfield’s Bigelow Center for Senior Activities.
“In Fairfield, we started with six players, and now there’s about 500 playing there on their dedicated courts,” she said.
“For a time, we were adding pickleball court lines to some tennis courts to make them dual-purpose,” Piscitelli said. “It soon became apparent that the city needed its own purpose-built pickleball courts.”
According to the USA Pickleball Association, the sport was invented in 1965 by three dads who lived on Bainbridge Island, off the coast of Seattle, Wash. Lore has it that pickleball was named after Pickles, a dog owned by one of the inventors of the game.
The court is the same size as a doubles badminton court, measuring 20 by 44 feet. The net is a little lower than a tennis net — 36 inches high at the ends, draping to 34 inches in the middle. However, a tennis court can be used if it has lines for pickleball, too.
The paddle looks like an enlarged table tennis paddle and the ball is similar in construction to a Wiffle ball, only smaller. As with tennis rackets, the paddles can be had in exotic materials for those seeking an edge (if only psychological) over their opponents. The ball used for indoor play is a little different, and there are “quiet” balls available too.
Scoring is similar to the old-style badminton rules — your side has to serve to score a point. The first side to get 11 points, with at least a two-point advantage, wins.
“People want to play things quickly,” Sullivan said.
There are improvements coming soon, too, for the dog park across the street from Eisenhower Park, Blake said.
“We’ll have an irrigation system and a separate area for smaller dogs,” he said.