Ocean City Opens Bidding Process for Pickleball Courts

first_imgA growing group of Pickleball players has found temporary spots to play at the Ocean City Sports and Civic Center (above) and outdoors at the Ocean City Intermediate School.For the last six years a small but enthusiastic group of pickleball players has traversed the island in search of a good game.Whether indoors at the Ocean City Civic Center, on modified tennis courts at 18th Street or at the playground adjacent to the Ocean City Intermediate School, pickleballers have proven adept at changing with the times, packing up nets and paddles and setting up wherever — and whenever —they were able.But as interest in the sport has grown, so too has the group’s desire to find a permanent home.They moved one step closer to their goal on Thursday when City Council unanimously opened the bidding process for the creation of five dedicated pickleball courts at Shelter Road and Tennessee Avenue (which runs off Bay Avenue between 22nd and 23rd streets).Local pickleball player and organizer Don Hepner is “thrilled” by the development.“It’s great news,” he said. “We really appreciate City Council and the Mayor getting this accomplished.”Pickleball, considered a hybrid of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, has an estimated 400,000 active players according to the USA Pickleball Association.  The game is played with a plastic ball on a court about one-quarter the size of a tennis court, at 20 x 44 ft. Courts are painted in a similar fashion to tennis — with right and left service areas — but differ with the addition of a “non-volley” zone directly in front of the net, which itself ranges in height from 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches at center.  The game can be played as doubles or singles.Because there is less ground to cover the sport has proven particularly popular with youth and senior citizens alike.  “It’s included in gym class at Ocean City Intermediate School, and then at the other end of the spectrum, it’s really just a matter of conditioning,” according to Hepner.“We have a player from Egg Harbor Township who is 73, and he has won two gold medals [in pickleball] at the New Jersey Senior Games. You can play pickleball well into your eighties.  The only warning we give is that it can be extremely addicting,” he adds.That much is evident when considering a recent spike in local interest.  As little as three years ago, Hepner says, he and two others might have had difficulty finding a fourth player for a doubles match, but today the Ocean City pickleball community is more than 140 members strong.“It’s more like a pick-up basketball game,” according to Hepner. “You don’t need to reserve a court, you don’t need a partner and you really don’t even need equipment because we have loaner paddles.  Everyone is welcome.”Although the group has not yet worked out its official summer schedule, in past years more advanced players play on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while beginners play on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “If you’ve never played before, that’s the perfect time to come,” Hepner says.  “There’s always somebody there. We will explain the rules and get you on your way.”The resolution, which also covers bidding for the resurfacing of the tennis courts at 18th Street, could yield results before summer’s end according to Ocean City Business Administrator Jim Mallon.“If everything lines up, with great weather and no delays,” he said, “we have an optimistic timeline of late July.”last_img

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *