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Dedicated pickleball courts meet needs of the sport's soaring popularity

Dedicated pickleball courts meet needs of the sport's soaring popularity
Posted at 9:04 PM, Dec 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-23 22:27:38-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The score is 0-0-2 as the first serve comes off the paddle narrowly missing landing in the kitchen.

That may sound like gibberish to people unfamiliar with pickleball, but for the soaring number of people trying the relatively new sport, it's the start of a game of which they can't get enough.

"Pickleball — it gives you that same feeling of playing tennis, but it’s more forgiving on being physically active to be able to do it,” said Mikey Marshall who took up the game about a year ago.

His doubles teammate was playing pickleball for the first time Wednesday.

"It’s pretty fun," Timothy Odeyomi said. "It keeps you active. It keeps you on your toes. I like that.”

They also like the changes that Corpus Christi's Al Kruse Tennis Center has made.

Private donations and city funds totaling around $40,000 were recently used to convert five tennis courts into ten dedicated pickleball courts.

Gone are the markings for other sports — a vast improvement from previous pickleball courts and venues.

"Before, they were playing indoors in a basketball gym," Director of Tennis and Pickleball Roland Elizondo said. "There were so many lines. This is not confusing. They’re just dedicated pickleball courts.”

Such courts are hard to find at a municipal facility. Elizondo estimates the nearest are in San Antonio or Austin.

That's why he's nicknamed the tennis center 'Corpus Christi Pickleball Headquarters', and city leaders think people from out-of-town will come here to play.

"They’re going to stay in our hotels," Interim Parks and Recreation Director Dante Gonzalez said. "They’re going to go to our restaurants. They’re going to bring their family. So that’s just going to bring in more revenue."

Elizondo says the tennis center's revenue has gone up 75-percent since they introduced pickleball two years ago. And at $3 for a 90-minute court rental, it's obvious that a lot of people are playing.

“I think the reason it’s popular is that it’s an easy sport, smaller court to play on than a tennis court, and we have several — maybe 75 or 80 people playing per week here seven days a week,” Elizondo said.

At that price, Marshall and Odeyomi can afford to play lots of games; but how long will it take for the newcomer to surpass the skill level of the veteran?

"Not very long,” Odeyomi said.

“About 30 minutes,” Marshall said as both men laughed.