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Getting into pickle(ball)?
Manteca Rec may offer courts for niche sport
An action shot from a pickleball game. - photo by Photo Contributed

• WHAT: Manteca Recreation & Parks Commission meeting
• WHEN: Thursday, 7 p.m.
• WHERE: City Council chambers, 1001 W. Center St.
• ON AGENDA: Exploring the possibility of converting tennis courts on Center Street to pickleball courts

Pickleball lovers are pushing for a Manteca venue to play the sport that has the feel of badminton, a bit of ping pong and the look of tennis.

Specifically they’d like to be able to convert the Center Street tennis courts across from Manteca Library into regulation pickleball courts.

The Manteca Recreation and Parks Commission on Thursday will hear the pitch for pickleball courts when they meet at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.

Parks and Recreation Director Bruce Mulder noted the commission will decide whether to explore the request for the pickleball court conversion.

If the commission agrees it is a concept worth exploring, staff would then check into specifics including costs as well as trying to gauge community interest. Also they would contact nearby residents to get their input. The city could opt to pursue dual uses at the courts for both tennis and pickleball, going with just pickleball or leave the facility as it is now. The courts are occasionally used for tennis. The biggest play, though are at courts located in Union Road in front of the golf course as well as at courts located at Sierra, Manteca, and East Union high schools.

Pickleball debuted in Manteca three years ago during the Manteca Senior Games. Mulder noted it was the event that drew the most participants. Most of the pickleball tournament that year was conducted on the Center Street courts.

Mulder added that pickleball courts are growing in favor at RV parks. He also pointed out that Del Webb at Woodbridge has converted some of their tennis courts to pickleball courts.

Mulder noted it is too early for a cost to be assigned to such an endeavor. If the commission wants to look at the possibility of pickleball courts and ultimately recommends the council approve it, it would have to vie with limited city funds with other projects. Backers of the pickleball courts have indicated they would be willing to raise the money to pay for the conversion.

The  recreation sport that was dreamed up in 1965 in the Puget Sound area of Washington using an asphalted badminton court by two fathers responding to their children saying they were bored now has a governing organization – the USA Pickleball Association – that claims more than 15,000 members nationwide.

The popularity of pickleball is credited to its simplicity and relative ease to play.

According to the USA Pickleball Association website, Pickleball is a simple paddle game, playing a special perforated slow-moving ball over a tennis type net, on a badminton-sized court. The ball is served underhand, without bouncing it from the court, and is served diagonally to the opponent’s service zone. Pickleball Rules state points are scored by the serving side only and occur when the opponent faults (fails to return the ball, hits the ball out of bounds, etc.). The server continues to serve, altering service courts, until the server faults. A game is won by the first side to reach eleven (11) points but will continue until won by a two point margin.

Unique pickleball features include:

• Serve Position: Server can have one foot inside the baseline, as long as the other foot is outside at moment of serve.

• Service Bounce Rule: Following serve, each side must make at least one ground-stroke, prior to volleying the ball (hitting it before it has bounced).

• Non-volley Zone: A player cannot volley a ball while standing within the non-volley zone.

Sport named after family dog

One of the bored kids’ fathers was Congressman Joel Pritchard of Washington State whose family’s backyard asphalt badminton court was the birthplace of Pickleball. The name came because the family’s cocker spaniel named “Pickles” kept stealing the ball.

The USA Pickleball Association site goes on to note that the game can be played on tennis courts or volleyball courts and outdoors on just about any hard surface.

The game caught on quickly because it could be played by all ages, required minimal equipment and costs and was easy to learn. Young children who had never played a racquet sport could enjoy pickleball. Seniors who had hung up their tennis or badminton racquets came out of retirement to play pickleball.

By 1972, interest in the game had grown to the point that the US Pickleball Association was formed.

In 1984, the USA Pickleball Association became the governing body of the sport and published its first official rulebook.

There are pickleball organizations in the Bay Area including Lafayette. There are also pickleball courts at several Del Webb communities including the original Sun City in Arizona and Sun City at Lincoln Hills in Placer County.