It was a soft opening for a project that involved plenty of hard work, planning and financing.
This past week, the YMCA of South Collier (Marco Y) introduced its nine brand–new pickleball courts with some lowkey speeches, an exhibition match comprised of top players, including a former men’s national champion, and some round–robin play to familiarize players with the new facility.
“The $600,000 project still requires some extra-cost refinements, such as shading and bleachers,” said the Y’s CEO, Cindy Abounader-Love, hence the somewhat informal kick-off.
“So, we need to continue fundraising to off-set costs,” Abounader-Love said. “We’re asking people to consider naming rights for the courts, the shading and bleachers, and also to buy pavers engraved with their names.”
She added that getting this far this quickly—the Y board floated the notion less than 3 years ago—has been “simply amazing,” and she paid particular tribute to her board, Y volunteers and indeed the construction company called Build, for their efforts.
“The pandemic didn’t do anybody any favors either,” said Board Chair Ashley Lupo, except outdoor activities such as pickleball suit many people. “So, it’s a bit like a silver lining because people feel safer outside.”
Lupo said the courts were devised and built “in response to what people think will help them to live healthy, active lifestyles, and enjoy a sense of community with Marco.”
She also stated that the project had been one of the Y’s high priorities because the sport is becoming so popular, and that members, as well as day-pass players, are welcome to enjoy the new courts right now.
Jake Rodden, the Construction Manager for Build said a special feature of the courts is their “cushion“ surface, consisting of six to ten layers of rubberized coating on top of the concrete before being painted in traditional colors.
“It’s easier on the joints and knees,” Rodden said.
By now, even nonplayers know the game is basically a combination of tennis, badminton, racquetball and table tennis played with paddle bats and a plastic wiffle-like ball, but a quick chat with contract instructor Jodi Pree offered some added insight into tactics.
One is “dinking,” in which players probe opponents with what amount to drop shots in the blocks on either side of the net.
It’s a matter of patient dinking until one player either makes a mistake or returns the ball too high, giving an opponent the opportunity to put it away with a smash—provided they then don’t step over the “kitchen” line and into the “non volley zone” nearest the net.
You’ll understand, promise, if you do as board chair Ashley Lupo said to close her speech: “Let’s go play pickleball.”
Next week, Head Instructor and Championship Player Mae Brown is due to give this reporter a lesson, and his impressions—as a previous tennis and racquetball player—will be forthcoming, with dinking, smashing and not infringing the “kitchen“ included.
For information on donating to the project, or for playing times and fees, contact the YMCA, and for more info on its wide variety of programs and activities for adults and children, visit marcoymca.org or call 239-394-9622. Follow on Twitter at ymcamarco; on Facebook at marcoymca, and Instagram at ymcamarco.