SHELBY — The new pickleball courts at Seltzer Park should be ready for action by July, the city of Shelby’s project coordinator Joe Gies said.
Last fall, the city parks board voted to repurpose part of the park’s two aging tennis courts. Current site plans call for the installation of three pickleball courts, which would span the northern half of the existing tennis courts.
As part of the project, the city will add a sidewalk connecting the courts to a paved, ADA complaint parking spot at the nearby gravel parking lot.
The courts will be resurfaced and re-striped with three standard size pickleball courts, each 20 by 44 feet.
The parks board discussed restoring the tennis courts last year, but began exploring other options due to the high cost.
Park board member Dave Downs said the tennis courts are “falling apart” and would cost around $110,000 to repair. He also pointed out that they don't get much use now that the high school's new courts are open to the public.
Downs said the southern half of the tennis courts could be converted into three more pickleball courts in the future if needed. The old tennis nets will be left up to serve as a backstop for the new courts.
The city parks board voted recently to begin soliciting bids. Gies said the city will open bids on March 3. He estimated the work will take about 60 days once the contract is finalized.
The overall project cost is estimated to be $57,000. The city will use parks funding and a $38,000 NatureWorks grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to pay for the work.
Gies said the parks board originally applied for the grant to cover the cost of restoring the tennis courts, but pivoted to pickleball after it received a smaller amount of money.
“They only got a fraction of what they asked for, so it was like 'OK, what can we do with this money that we've gotten?'" he said.
Pickleball is a sport that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. The game can be played as doubles or singles and is generally accessible to players of all ages and skill levels.
Like in tennis, pickleball players use racquets to hit a ball back and forth over a net in the center of the court. Pickleballs resemble wiffle balls, but are slightly heavier and have fewer holes. Thus, they don’t bounce as high as a tennis ball.
Courts are smaller, the net is lower and racquets are more lightweight. All serves are underhand and the ball must be allowed to bounce once before it can be returned.
Pickleball courts also have a non-volley zone, often called a kitchen, near the net. Players are not allowed to stand in the kitchen while volleying, which prevents them from crowding the net and smashing the ball.
Ron Thompson, 79, has been playing pickleball for nearly 10 years. He's currently the oldest regular of a group that meets Wednesday and Friday mornings to play pickleball at the Shelby YMCA.
“It’s good quality exercise. It can be played at just about whatever level you want to pursue," he said.
Most of the people he plays with are former racquetball and tennis players; others had never picked up a racquet in their lives.
“As the tennis and racquetball crowd got a little bit older, they relaxed their game," he said. “(A background in paddle sports) certainly helps, but it doesn't hold you back if you don't have one.”
Thompson said he's happy to see Shelby adding outdoor courts at Seltzer Park. He thinks the availability will allow a different crowd of younger, working people to embrace the sport.
While he enjoys playing in the wind-free, controlled environment at the Y, Thompson said the informal group he plays with will take advantage of the outdoor courts as well.
“As a group we're looking forward to that," he said. "We won’t give up our indoor game but we will certainly play outdoors.”
Parks board members say they hope active players in the community might offer clinics and organize a league.
Thompson said there has been casual discussion about offering clinics, but no official decision. Nevertheless, he's confident the Y contingent would be willing to help teach others the sport.
Shelby isn't the first Richland County city to add pickleball courts to a local park. Courts are also available at Burton Park in Mansfield and Stowell Park in Ontario.