Pickleball goes outdoors in Salt Lake City
Recreation • One of the country’s most popular recreational sports is gaining traction in Utah.
Published: July 19, 2012 10:08AM
Updated: July 18, 2012 10:56AM
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Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Laurel Schwendiman (right) returns a volley while playing with partner Rob Vrooman. Pickleball is played on a badminton court with a lowered net with a perforated plastic baseball (similar to a whiffle ball) and wood or composite paddles. Salt Lake City has added pickleball courts to Reservoir Park due to the growing popularity of the sport.

There was a new sound ringing through Reservoir Park recently — the ping-ing and pong-ing of pickleball.

After receiving a handful of requests from local pickleball players, the city decided to paint courts on three tennis courts that were being resurfaced, said park department representative Lee Bollwinkel. “The community seemed to be showing interest and we were already resurfacing, so we thought, ‘Why not?’” Bollwinkel said.

Lines have been drawn with light blue paint at Sunnyside, Reservoir and Pioneer parks.

Salt Lake City lags behind Ogden, with eight courts, and St. George, with 24. In October, St. George will host the Huntsmen Senior Games, in which more than 400 people are expected to compete in pickleball.

Rob Vrooman, USA Pickleball Association’s ambassador for Salt Lake City, described the sport as a mix between tennis, ping pong and badminton — laced with aspects of chess and poker.

“So much of it is a game of strategy,” Vrooman said. “A player may look like they’re going to swing one way, look straight forward, and smack it right behind you.”

Players hit a large whiffle ball back and forth over a tennis net using enlarged ping pong paddles. The court is smaller than a tennis court and allows players to “dink” balls to one another, keeping the momentum of the sport moving.

The sport came about unintentionally a few years ago when a family in Washington went to play outside during a lapse in the rain. They named it “Pickleball” after their dog Pickles.

The International Federation of Pickleball said last year that more than 3,000 Americans had tried Pickleball.

Vrooman said convincing the city to repurpose the courts was a challenge. After months of calling Bollwinkle and other representatives, he saw results. But he’s not done yet. He think Salt Lake City needs more courts.

“I hate to see short-sightedness of the city with the most popular sport in the nation right now,” Vrooman said. “I wish they would recognize the benefits like we do and give us more places to play outside.”

Gil Padlsky, of Salt Lake City, was playing at one of the new courts at Reservoir Park along with Laurel Schwendiman, Tatyana Semenova, and Rob Vrooman, of Sandy, played at one of the new courts at Reservoir Park on a recent Friday morning.

After driving 50 minutes once a week to play at the courts in Ogden, she enjoyed playing competitive pickleball closer to home, Schwendiman said. “The competition there was always intense, but it’s nice to play these new courts,” she said. “Hopefully we can get that sort of competition here, too.”

Padlsky looked up at the cloudy sky after a game Friday, something he couldn’t do in all the hours he logged on indoor courts. “It’s just nice to finally play outside.”

dferguson@sltrib.com

Pickleball courts in Salt Lake City

Sunnyside Park, 840 S. 1600 East

Pioneer Park, 300 S. 300 West

Reservoir Park, 42 S. University Street

Pinging for pickleball

For more information about pickleball rules and local events, visit www.usapa.org/whatis_pball/index.php.