The Washington Pickleball Ambassadors are on the hunt for a new place to play one of the fastest-growing sports in America.
Currently, the group meets in the Washington YMCA gym every morning around 8 a.m. The group has grown to about 20 people with many more stopping in daily to learn how to play. Keith Lazar plays with the group regularly and has conducted a survey, which resulted in more than 70 names of people who would be interested in playing pickleball if more courts can be made available.
The sport is rapidly growing throughout southeast Iowa as Kalona has recently installed outdoor courts, Mt. Pleasant is in the midst of building a six-court facility, and according to Lazar, it has taken off in Fairfield as well.
Pickleball is played on a court 20-feet-by-44-feet, the same size as a badminton court, and can be played in doubles or singles. A paddle and a ball that resembles the look of a Wiffle ball are the only two pieces of equipment, aside from a net and court, needed in the game.
To begin, players serve the ball diagonally and points can only be scored by the side that serves. Once served, the ball must bounce once before being volleyed back. The server continues to serve until he or she faults. Then, the ball is turned over to the other player to serve. The first one to reach 11 points and leading by at least two points, wins.
Because the game can last quite a while, the group is looking for more courts than the one existing one they have at the YMCA.
“I think if we could find courts, I think it could explode in Washington,” said Lazar.
The new Washington YMCA will have four courts for play, but the group is interested in outdoor locations. They have tried to play on the tennis courts at Washington High School, but the surface is not conducive for play. Other possible options have been looking into putting courts by the skate park in Sunset Park.
Lazar said he has stopped by the skate park on numerous occasions to speak with those who use the space, and he has been met with an enthusiastic response from local youth who play the game in school and expressed interest in having an outdoor area to play as well.
“We’re exploring right now the different alternatives for pickleball courts, and we’re trying to find the most efficient and effective way because we have more and more people that want to play,” he said.
Lazar said they are slowly inching closer to finding solutions with the city and the school district and the three main possibilities they are focusing on now are installing courts at the wellness park, converting the tennis courts and in the skate park.
“If we had two courts, it would be great. If we had three courts, that would be just awesome,” Lazar said. “It is so exciting and everybody’s enthusiastic.”