Pickleballers are making a pitch for a year-round facility in the South Cariboo.
Len Aune, vice-president of the newly formed South Cariboo Pickleball Association, said he would love to see a covered facility in 100 Mile or 108 Mile Ranch to serve the growing number of pickleball enthusiasts. The sport – a cross between tennis and ping pong – is especially popular among seniors. It is easier on the joints than tennis, the racket is smaller and the courts a quarter of the size.
More than 30 people come out three times a week to play, at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary School and 100 Mile House Elementary.
“All of us Boomers want to play somewhere,” Aune, 70, said. “We don’t want to do tennis or curling because it’s too hard on the body so a majority of folks would like to play pickleball so they can enjoy a sport without beating themselves up.”
Aune said the association is just starting the groundwork for the project, which he acknowledges will likely cost around $1 million to build. The group intends to apply for grants and seek support from the Cariboo Regional District and District of 100 Mile House to partner on the project.
One suggestion, he said, is to encourage the district to convert half of the tennis courts at Centennial Park into three pickleball courts, complete with nets and stanchions. It is also looking into potential locations near the South Cariboo Rec Centre or the 108 Mile Community Hall.
“Most cities and towns in B.C. are putting in a covered play area,” Aune said. “If you do it right you can install heating and bathrooms as well and make it a year-round facility.”
Shelly Morton, Canlan Ice Sport’s community events coordinator, said she has been receiving more calls than ever from people wanting to try out the sport, which runs over the winter from October to June. In response, she expanded their novice classes this season to two days a week.
Those wanting to play can attend PSO every Monday at 6:30 p.m. and Thursday at 7 p.m. and Tuesday at 6 p.m. at 100 Mile Elementary. Novice players are encouraged to attend the Tuesday or Thursday night sessions, while those looking for a more competitive game are asked to come Monday night. Anyone looking to take part is asked to come by the rec centre office to sign up.
“All of our community sports, you leave there feeling like you’ve connected with people,” Morton said. “Pickleball, anyone can play it. It doesn’t require a lot of jumping, running or anything. It can be very stationary but you’re still getting a lot of movement in.”
There are five main rules to the game: the ball must stay inbounds, there should only be one bounce per side and the serve must be done at the baseline and can’t land in the no-volley zone. The game ends at 11, 15, or 21 points.
Marge Mitchell, head facilitator and pickleball instructor for South Cariboo Rec Centre, said most of the local pickleballers are over 70, but everyone is welcome.
“If young people want to come and join us the more the merrier,” Mitchell said. “I think it’s just good to be active whatever sport your choose and pickleball is a good one. It’s also a lot more social than tennis.”
Aune agreed, noting he picked up pickleball six years ago when a friend invited him to play badminton at PSO. Pickleball was running on the other side of the court, and he decided to try it out.
“It was way more fun and a lot less work on the shoulders,” he said. “Now I just can’t get enough to it, it’s a drug you know. Great friendships are made, we have a lot of fun on the court while getting some exercise.”