Making a case for courts: Pickleball fans attend BG Council meeting

Two pickleball enthusiasts voiced their case for outdoor courts in Bowling Green.

The issue was discussed during the regular meeting of city council last week.

“Pickleball is a game that any generation can play,” said David Saneholtz. “You can enjoy it. It’s just a fun game. You can play to whatever level you want.”

Saneholtz noted that a group of pickleball players in the city has been working on the concept of outdoor pickleball courts – the game is similar to tennis but uses a different kind of ball and paddles – for some time. Such courts are a part of the parks and recreation department’s five-year plan, and Saneholtz said that the pickleball group has been working with the department on reviewing several potential locations in the city.

He said that, ultimately, a potential site for the courts at the Bowling Green Community Center, suggested at a meeting with the parks and recreation department and an architect, “made a lot of sense.”

Saneholtz said the game has been thought of as an “old person’s sport” and that he’d like to put an end to that. He said it’s true a number of older people play pickleball, but “because it’s a good game, provides physical and social activities, very therapeutic.” He said that the ages of professional pickleball players go all the way down to teenagers, and that it’s the fastest-growing sport in America. He said the sport’s championships have been televised on a major network, and pickleball has one or more professional leagues that tour the country.

Saneholtz said that pickleball in Bowling Green likely does seem like an “old person’s sport” because there is no access to outdoor courts in the city. In Bowling Green, it can only be played indoors, and in spaces at the Bowling Green State University Rec Center, and the community center. Saneholtz noted that the Community Center only offers restricted hours – 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. – three days a week.

“If you think about it, most people other than retirees can’t make” those times, he said.

Saneholtz said that over the weekend, a number of pickleball players played the game in Perrysburg, on that city’s outdoor courts. He said that, in Bowling Green, what they are hoping to do is not only have more opportunities to play, but also open play up to people who want to play pickleball in the outdoors.

He said that, if built at the community center, the courts would thus have easy access to amenities like restrooms, drinking fountains, locker rooms and the assistance of city staff in case of an emergency. Additionally, extra equipment could be stored there, he said, which could be borrowed by beginner players.

Having such courts, Saneholtz said, would help keep existing and future players in town, and keep the money they’d spend in the Bowling Green area. Further, he said that high-quality courts would also have the potential to draw players from other areas.

Saneholtz, who said he is a former professional engineer, estimated that the courts, without lighting and shade structures, would cost $287,000. He estimated the project costs and other related matters at $335,000.

Earlier this year, the pickleball group made a presentation to council, seeking American Rescue Plan Act monies for outdoor courts.

“We are looking forward to a commitment from council to fund the pickleball courts at whatever level you guys decide to fund that, and that you’re committed to having pickleball courts,” Saneholtz said.

He noted that the group has already raised $10,000, and that the Parks and Recreation Foundation has committed that part of their donations from the upcoming “Party for the Parks” event would be earmarked for pickleball courts.

He said that once council has made a commitment to the courts, they would be able to seek private donations to further fund the project.

Paula Hermes is also a pickleball fan.

“I just love activity for all of us, and I love laughter and helping others, and bringing people together in a positive light, and that’s what I feel pickleball is all about,” she said. “There’s nothing more to say.”

She said she and her husband were among those who played pickleball in Perrysburg over the weekend, and that they ended up helping two 40-year-olds learn how to play the game.

“You don’t have to be powerful or strong to win a game,” Hermes said. “It take strategy, it takes perseverance.

Responding to an earlier question from council, Hermes said that the maintenance cost of resurfacing the courts is about $5,000, but that tournaments can bring in as much as $10,000. Saneholtz mentioned earlier that other pickleball clubs have offset their maintenance costs with such annual tournaments.