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Council to consider creation of pickleball courts during 2022 budget talks

'Right now, the biggest limiting factor to growth of pickleball in Moose Jaw is the lack of adequate playing space. Not having access to schools in the summer months means that many of our players stop playing — at least locally — for that time'

Interest in pickleball in Moose Jaw has exploded over the past few years, so much so that the community could finally see the construction of dedicated courts in 2022. 

During the Nov. 22 regular council meeting, city council voted unanimously to have the parks and recreation department provide a supplemental budget request report during the 2022 budget deliberations — to begin Dec. 8 — that would focus on constructing outdoor pickleball courts. 

Pickleball Moose Jaw submitted a proposal to construct six outdoor courts on the south side of the Kinsmen Sportsplex for $285,000. A council report noted that this space offers several benefits, such as:

  • Access to change rooms, washrooms, concession stand, parking, transit, and ability to make the courts fully accessible
  • Protection from wind and the ability to install the courts with a north/south orientation
  • Chance to expand by six courts; this would cost an extra $273,000
  • Ability to host large-scale regional and provincial tournaments 

Fast-paced game

Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in North America, with the United States seeing a 1,000-per-cent increase in players from 2013 to 2019, club president Lori Haukaas said. Meanwhile, more than 75,000 Canadians have enjoyed the sport since 2019, although that number increased during the pandemic.

There are about 50 registered members in Moose Jaw, while the club estimates there are 300 players in the area.

Pickleball is a fast-paced game that combines badminton, tennis and ping pong and is played on a badminton-sized court by people of all abilities and ages, she continued. Since the game is easy to play, new players can join and enjoy a game the first time. 

“Recently, I had the opportunity to play with Moose Jaw’s most senior pickleball player — he’s 90 years old — and it’s one of the highlights of my pickleball career,” beamed Haukaas.

Different venues offer pickleball for different ages and at various times during the week, including the Timothy Eaton’s Centre, Cosmo Seniors’ Centre and two elementary schools. 

Haukaas noted that while Golden Ticket Sports installed courts at the former Hillcrest Sports Centre, it is not offering playing time yet. Moreover, even though the sports business consulted with the pickleball community, it placed the courts too close together and limited competition to two courts.

“Right now, the biggest limiting factor to growth of pickleball in Moose Jaw is the lack of adequate playing space. Not having access to schools in the summer months means that many of our players stop playing — at least locally — for that time,” said Haukaas, noting there is a long list of people who want to play but can’t due to space.

Saskatchewan players travel from April to September to compete against others in several small towns, which makes Moose Jaw the outlier, she added. The club has worked with city hall since 2019 on this issue and looked forward to the development of the courts.

Council questions

The pickleball club wants to host tournaments immediately, especially since it was asked to hold a provincial tournament next year, Haukaas told Coun. Crystal Froese. However, the club can’t because it lacks a dedicated venue, but it could host smaller competitions featuring almost 100 athletes with six courts.

The club looked at multiple areas for a dedicated home, including the decommissioned Hillcrest rink and Crescent Park, but Kinsmen offered the best protection from wind and the most amenities for players, Haukaas told Coun. Kim Robinson. 

“But no pickleball player in Moose Jaw would complain about courts at Crescent Park,” she added.

“I think (Crescent Park) would be the ideal location myself,” Robinson replied. “I think Pickleball Moose Jaw should still push for it.”

The next regular council meeting is Monday, Dec. 6.