From the first decision to build in December to groundbreaking in May to the official grand opening on Sunday afternoon, it’s been a whirlwind of activity for the brand new City of Moose Jaw pickleball courts at the Kinsmen Sportsplex.
And with the explosive growth the sport has seen not only in Moose Jaw but across Canada, you can be certain that the quick turnaround makes sense.
Well over 100 current and future players and supporters took part in the grand opening on Sunday afternoon, featuring a host of community dignitaries alongside national and provincial representatives welcoming the new six-court facility.
“It’s so great to have an outdoor facility, we’ve had our indoor gym facilities but we’ve never had an outdoor home and this is going to be fantastic for the local community, people of all ages,” said Scott Osmachenko, recreation services manager with the City of Moose Jaw. “Then there are the tournaments that will be happening, too, I’m sure these courts will see a lot of use. There’s learn-to-play pickleball and then there’s competitive pickleball so it’s going to be available for everyone of every age and ability.”
That’s one of the biggest draws for the sport, which sees around 350,000 players across Canada as of 2020 and the player base almost tripling every two years since the sport took off nationally in the 2010s.
A hybrid of tennis and badminton with its own unique ruleset, pickleball is exceptionally low impact and can be played by those young and old and of all fitness levels.
“You don’t have to be a jock to play pickleball, that’s what’s unique about pickleball, anyone can play it,” said Karen Rust, president of Pickleball Canada who just happened to grow up in Moose Jaw. “We segment people into the level they’re comfortable with and you play with people at the same level and you have fun.”
Folks can play for exercise and fresh air, or they can go full-speed competitive and find all sorts of games -- tournaments can be found all over the province in the summer, and close to 1,000 players took part in the national championships in Ontario recently.
And the aforementioned growth has seen more and more courts popping up all the time.
“Pretty much every municipality is getting involved now,” Rust said. “For awhile we were dealing with ‘it’s just a fad’ but now they’ve accepted that it’s not. It’s everywhere, you have celebrities building courts in their backyard and it’s getting on to mainstream TV, there were two hours of pickleball on CBS [Saturday]. So there’s all kinds of room for growth.”
As one might expect, the local pickleball community is over the moon with their new facility, with Pickleball Moose Jaw members on hand to welcome newcomers Saturday, even holding the first-ever tournament on the local courts.
“It’s pretty exciting, it was just over a year since we started talking with the city about feasibility and location, so it’s pretty cool to have one year from concept to our first games here,” said vice-president Dave Richards.”Part of the challenge for our club is that we haven’t had a facility where everyone can gather and play. Now that we do, we can promote the game and gather people together, and we’re looking forward to it.”
With the courts opening in mid-summer, nothing too serious is planned for the rest of this year. But discussions are already underway to deal with an expected large increase in the number of local pickleball players in the near future.
“We have lots of ideas for next year, now we’re looking forward to people signing up and joining our club and coming out to enjoy the game,” Richards said.
For more information on Pickleball Moose Jaw, including membership info and other tidbits, be sure to visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/pickleballmoosejaw.