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Cedar Springs now has pickleball courts

By Sue Wolfe

The old tennis courts at Hilltop have been converted in pickleball courts for residents. Courtesy photo.

The Cedar Springs Community now has two pickleball courts, thanks to Cedar Springs Public Schools (CSPS) and a group of area pickleball enthusiasts. The currently unused tennis courts, located just north of Hilltop Administration Building, have sat vacant for many years but were recently renovated for the community to use as pickleball courts. 

The sport of pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, according to USA Pickleball Association (USAPA). The biggest subset of that growth is not in the over-60 crowd, said Justin Maloof, executive director of USAPA, but the younger set. “When the sport first caught on in the sunbelt states around 2009, it was at 55-plus centers and RV communities,” he said. “It snowballed from there. But these days, there are many municipalities and parks and rec departments that are setting up courts, making it accessible to a younger crowd.”

What is pickleball? For the uninitiated, pickleball is something of a mix between tennis, racquetball, badminton, and ping pong. Players use special paddles and a perforated polymer wiffle ball. Games take place on tennis-like surfaced courts with specific pickleball lines. Nets and court sizes are smaller than their tennis counterparts, and the most common game is doubles, although singles is also an option. It has its own set of quirky rules—for instance, try to stay out of the “kitchen”—but they’re easy to learn.

It took a lot of work by a dedicated group of people to clean up and patch up the old tennis courts and turn them into pickleball courts. Courtesy photo.

As a full-time RVer who still calls Cedar Springs “home,” George Waite, a 1976 CSPS graduate, first learned about pickleball in Rockport, Texas in 2020. “My wife Sandy and I have been traveling around the country and experienced the enthusiasm for pickleball firsthand. We have played at some beautiful pickleball facilities and met wonderful people,” Waite explained. 

After Waite taught a group of Cedar Springs area residents how to play the game, it then became a top priority for this group to provide the Cedar Springs area with an opportunity to learn and enjoy the sport of pickleball. 

“We are driving to Greenville to play, while all the time believing Cedar Springs needed a similar-type facility,” said Kyla Baker Johnston, a 1995 CSPS graduate. “My husband Tim and I drive to Greenville 3-4 days a week, where we play in an open court as well as a league. We often shop and eat in the community while there to play,” continued Johnston. “Why not figure out how we can help bring these same opportunities to our Cedar Springs community?” 

While the newly renovated Hilltop courts aren’t perfect, they now provide an opportunity to learn and play pickleball. Community volunteers cleaned up the area by pulling weeds, power washing the flat surfaces and cement walls, filling deep crevices in the pavement and sealing them, straightened the exterior fence, and then painted two pickleball courts using a specially designed material with a sand base. One court has a permanent net installed with a second one to be installed when funds are available. A temporary fence surrounding one court has also been installed to keep the ball from rolling onto the other court area while people are playing. All improvements have been paid by pickleball participants with more donations needed to complete a third court.  

Cedar Springs City Manager Mike Womack and CSPS Superintendent Scott Smith have been working with community volunteers over the last year looking for an opportunity to create a pickleball facility in our community. 

“The Board of Education is committed to providing community access to District facilities. These courts certainly needed some TLC as they have not been used by students for years. It is wonderful to know that our community will benefit by using these spaces,” said Smith. 

“Community pickleball offers unlimited opportunities,” explained Waite. “It promotes wellness for all ages and abilities, provides fun social opportunities for families and friends, and brings people into downtown Cedar Springs. I remember playing high school tennis on these courts, so this all brings back some great memories for me.”

The City of Cedar Springs is currently updating its Master and Recreation Plans. “The City is eager to work with area residents on planning for a new pickleball court facility. Community members have expressed a willingness to help fundraise to cover funds needed,” explained Mike Womack, City Manager. 

An estimated $150,000 is a preliminary projection of cost but final details including a location still need to be worked out. 

For now, there are two legal sized courts open for public use during daylight hours, seven days a week. A recently formed community group communicates under the name of Cedar Springs Pickleball through the free GroupMe app. If you wish to keep updated on when various people are playing, just submit your request to GroupMe and you will be approved to join. If you wish to help with renovations, have a question or suggestion, please contact Sue Wolfe at 696.8432 (landline) or email SueQ@hughes.net. 

North Kent Community Enrichment hopes to start offering lessons and possibly a small fall league. Contact NKCE Executive Director Jaime Gunderson for more details at 696.7320 or Director@mynkce.

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