Pickleball In Your Pocketbook

Published: April 18, 2019 at 04:30 pm


We are a month into springtime. It is a time of renewed energy for many, be it in work or play.

For a number of sports (and fun) enthusiasts, play comes in the form of pickleball — a combination of ping pong, tennis, and badminton. The game has been growing in popularity with the mid- to older-aged population since resident Jan Brown (an International Pickleball Teaching Association certified instructor) introduced the sport to Newtown a number of years ago.

With the advent of warmer weather, pickleball players (picklers?) look forward to backhanding a few balls in the great outdoors. Vying for space, anecdotally, can be problematic, though.

Players currently use two makeshift outdoor “courts” near the ambulance garage at Fairfield Hills in fair weather, a court at Treadwell, and two tennis courts there that double as unofficial pickleball courts.

An aerobic workout that is kind to the joints — smaller courts mean less bounding about — Parks & Recreation has seen an uptick in interest this year. Indoor pickleball drew 20 to 30 participants to Sandy Hook School Tuesday nights this winter; a Monday night at Edmond Town Hall gym was added to accommodate the crush. With Newtown’s senior population on the increase, this exercise suited for a healthy aging lifestyle seems a good fit.

But is that uptick in interest sustainable and enough to advocate installing four more outdoor courts at Fairfield Hills at a price of more than a quarter million dollars? Voters at next Tuesday’s referendum will determine the answer to this question as they ponder the other costs of living in Newtown. An anonymous donation of $25,000, should the question of pickleball courts be approved, still leaves a cost of more than $200,000 to taxpayers.

If popularity wanes, will we find ourselves in a pickle? Will the installation of four courts for one sport, benefiting only a fraction of Newtown’s population, seem suddenly to have been excessive?

It is unfortunate that the referendum question does not allow for voters to suggest a modified approach: should money be appropriated for one, two, or three courts rather than just the option of four courts in one fell swoop? If voters say nay to installing four courts, players are left with zero extra courts (unless another anonymous donor loves pickleball enough to cover the full costs of one or two of these adult play spaces).

We do need various opportunities for exercise that appeal to a broad population, and we need the socialization that comes with the camaraderie built into playtime. In an atmosphere where taxpayers feel stressed by the prospect of added dollars for municipal and school needs, when many of our nearly 300 miles of road remain in disrepair, when social services are stretched, setting aside a chunk of funds for not one or two, but four new pickleball courts is a big ask.

Picking pickleball, or putting it on the sidelines: Voters will decide next week if Newtown will be all work and no play.


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