After a relatively quick six-month volley, the City of Beverly Hills will launch a Pickleball Pilot program on Sunday, Jan. 12. The easy- to-play and social game has been increasingly gaining in popularity in recent years.
Combining elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis, pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with a net set at 34 inches over which players use solid paddles to hit a perforated polymer ball.
The first known pickleball tournament was held in 1976, less than a decade after the game was created.
“The reception has been incredible,” said Recreation and Parks Commissioner Judie Fenton about the City’s efforts to move forward in bringing pickleball to the community. “I don’t know how to play it, but I’m going to try.”
“I used to play tennis and I’m just not as agile as I was when I was younger, but I’d like to play pickleball because I think that it’s less strenuous,” Fenton added. “I think that the community is really excited about it.”
That Beverly Hills is even getting into the game of pickleball at this time is thanks to Planning Commissioner Andy Licht. After a conversation with a friend of his who asked what could be done to resolve the lack of pickleball courts in Beverly Hills, Licht decided to attend the June 25 Recreation and Parks Commission meeting and bring it up for discussion as a non-agendized item.
“I thought it was important for the City to enter the pickleball era,” Licht said. “I’m so happy the Recreation and Parks Commission is introducing pickleball to the City.”
According to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), which was founded in 1984, the sport is “exploding in popularity” with the number of places to play having more than doubled in the past decade.
In addition to offering a low-impact and social exercise opportunity, pickleball is a great way to have fun while maintaining physical health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only half of adults get the physical activity they need to help reduce and prevent chronic diseases. Benefits of physical activity for children and “healthy aging” are likewise manifold according to the CDC and include helping to delay the onset of cognitive decline.
The sport was invented one summer afternoon in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Washington. A state congressman, Joel Pritchard, and his friend Bill Bell, had just finished a round of golf and returned home to find a brood of children in need of some outdoor adventure, according to the USAPA. Using ping pong paddles, a badminton net and a ball to create a lively and healthy backyard game, the families evolved pickleball (named for the Pritchards’ dog Pickles) over the subsequent months, creating new rules, while keeping in mind the game’s original purpose: “To provide a game that the whole family could play together.”
Beverly Hills plans to kick off the pickleball pilot program on Sunday, Jan. 12, from 9 a.m. to noon at La Cienega Park. Following the kick-off, pickleball play will take place at both La Cienega Park and Roxbury Park, but only La Cienega Park will have open play because more courts will be available for pickleball. The Beverly Hills Center at La Cienega Park will have a total of 8 courts (including four for drop-in play). Roxbury Park will have two courts, including one for reserved court play. For more information or to reserve a court, visit: www.beverlyhills.org/pickleball.