Indoor pickleball courts attract players year-round

By Jan Loveland, Contributing Writer

Photo by Jan Loveland

Alden Racquet Sports Committee founders Steve Dell and Ruth Smith worked to bring pickleball to the Helena Township Community Center.


REGION – On almost any Saturday morning, the gym at the Helena Township Community Center in Alden is busy with the game of pickleball, a game that takes aspects of tennis and table tennis and sets them on a badminton-sized court. Players come from throughout the area to fight winter inertia.

And just as local interest has grown, pickleball is a national phenomenon that has an estimated 3.1 million players in the U.S. and has grown at the rate of 10 percent annually, according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA).

The game attracts older players because the area that each player covers is smaller. While it can be played by singles or doubles, the establishment of a no-volley zone (the “kitchen”) near the net means that fewer steps get the job done.

While the game offers the thrill of tennis, obvious differences that stand out: the flat paddles (like table tennis, only larger) and the plastic ball (like a wiffle ball, but different) and rules that restrict players from standing in the kitchen until the ball has bounced once. Lobs, smashes and volleys are still intact, with the kind of energy that you might expect to see in competitive tennis or table tennis.

In the past two years, local demand for pickleball has grown to the point where all the options are used on a regular basis. Until outdoor courts are open in Alden, Bellaire and Elk Rapids, there are three public indoor facilities available. Helena Township books as many as 30-35 hours of reservations each week. There is an active pickleball game twice a week at the Kaliseum in Kalkaska. The Clearwater Township Community Center can be set up for pickleball as well, although it needs to be reserved. And some of the regular players have even organized to promote the sport in the area.

The Alden Racquet Sports Committee (ARSC) was founded in 2016 to apply for a state grant to resurface the outdoor tennis courts. Founders Steve Dell and Ruth Smith were both avid tennis players who eventually applied for a grant from the Department of Natural Resources with the assistance of another local group, the Alden Volunteers. After the grant provided new surfaces for the two courts in Alden’s Tennis Court Park, pickleball lines were also painted on the courts to allow outdoor play for both sports.

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