Dedicated pickleball courts at Lincoln Park show game’s growth

Tim Heckel, left, returns a shot as his partner, Tom Woodward, looks on during a recent pickleball game at Lincoln Park. The pickleball courts at Lincoln Park are where the experienced players play. Pineridge Park is where the beginner and intermediate players learn the nuances of the game.

It’s always nice when a decision turns out to be the right one.

The city of Grand Junction built pickleball courts as part of the recent Lincoln Park renovation, and it couldn’t have turned out better.

On a recent Thursday, the four pickleball courts were cluttered with close to 30 players scampering around, popping the ball back and forth over the net.

Rob Schoeber, director of the Grand Junction Parks and Recreation Department, said it was an easy decision to build the courts once they saw there was a growing need.

“Over the last couple of years we’ve seen the popularity of pickleball grow,” he said. “When some of the players heard what we were going to do (renovation), they asked us to put in some pickleball courts.”

Not only did they ask, they helped with some of the funding. Schoeber said a few players held fundraisers and also made private donations to help pay for the project.

“It showed us that there was a vested interest,” he said.

The Lincoln Park renovation was a fairly large undertaking, Schoeber said. Four pickleball courts, four regulation tennis courts and four “quick start” courts for youth tennis programs were built.

He said the cost of the pickleball courts was approximately $186,000 of the total contract amount.

Not only is Schoeber happy to see the pickleball courts being used frequently, he’s become a user himself.

“My wife bought us paddles for Christmas, and it is addicting,” he said. “It’s a little bit of tennis, racquetball, pingpong and badminton, and you smush them all together and you have pickleball.”

Before the courts were built, pickleball was played on some of the tennis courts. Lines were drawn and portable nets were used to create two pickleball courts per tennis court.

While Lincoln Park was being renovated, pickleball players moved to the Pineridge Park tennis courts in the Redlands.

After the four courts were completed at Lincoln Park, George Gerson, the local pickleball guru and fanatic, hatched a plan to help grow the sport.

“When (Lincoln Park) was finished, we had two (outdoor) places to play,” Gerson said. “Now, we send the new players over to Pineridge Park, so they can play with other new players.”

Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings are the times for new players to come to Pineridge to play.

The more experienced players meet at Lincoln Park every morning to play.

Gerson thinks Grand Junction is the only place on the Western Slope that has exclusive pickleball courts.

The city also put three pickleball courts inside the Lincoln Park barn for indoor play.

Now the city is planning to add more pickleball courts in the future. The master plan for Matchett Park has courts in the plan.

“That’s the plan right now,” Schoeber said. “The pickleball players came out in strong support.”

Matchett Park is a 205-acre section of property off Patterson and 28 1/4 roads. The plan is to include up to 12 pickleball courts.

Up to 75 percent of the project will be funded by a Great Outdoors Colorado grant.

The Matchett Park master plan is up for adoption by the city council in early August, but the project is still in the early stages of development.


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