What’s with the Pickleball Pilot Program?
The City of Seattle completed the Pickleball Pilot Program that ran officially from October 2017 to October 2018. During that period, they painted 24 courts at 7 different tennis courts around the City.
What we know is this:
- Green Lake rocked, and continues to rock pickleball, what with 45+ players showing up on the weekends. That’s pretty incredible, considering that the Green Lake northeast tennis courts were painted for only two pickleball courts. Ever resourceful, the SMPA guys, Sean and Frank, who reserved the courts and managed them all summer and into the fall, simply taped out more courts as needed. We “built” ’em, and players came.
- Miller Playfield had four pickleball courts painted out, and now have a semipermanent net there as well, and hosted a steady stream of players for Thursday night play under the lights. Yes, lights. Outside. Fun times, and as soon as the winter weather abates, we expect it to be a popular Central District pickleball hotspot to supplement their indoor play.
- Soundview Courts in the Olympic Hills/Crown Hill area of northwest Seattle let us run a summer pickleball league as a pilot program. And we’ve heard anecdotally from players that live in that area that the courts have been a great addition to the park there. Quiet now, you can check out nets and start playing there on dry winter days.
- Discovery Park was the site for our Seattle Metro Classic tournament, a fun couple of weekends that let us cut our teeth on running a tournament. Don’t let the lack of nets stop you: let the Parks Department know that we need more nets. Semipermanent ones would be great.
- West Seattle, too, saw a steady stream of players making use of their outdoor courts to help manage the overflow at Delridge Community Center and to enjoy the lovely summer weather. Fun games, good friends, hot pickleball.
- Georgetown drew some local players, and South Park is just too unhealthy to play at. Between basketball posts too close to the back line and Highway 99 trucks dumping diesel exhaust right onto the court, outdoor play there is not an option. However, indoors, Monday-Wednesday-Friday play is hotly competitive. Having outdoor courts for the overflow would be great. Someday.
And what the city of Seattle Parks knows now is that the demand for pickleball courts grows weekly and will only increase. If there are any limits at all, it’s the lack of courts. Indoor, outdoor, pickleball deserves a permanent place in their budgeting and long-term plans. SMPA meets with the project planners to stay on top of their plans, and to continue to press for courts.
Seattle Pickleball Players at USAPA National Pickleball Championships
For all who went to the desert to play or simply watch the Pickleball matches at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, the consensus is that it was a complete blast. The intense heat of the first few days was a sideshow to some really great pickleball. Imagine being at summer camp where all the cool counselors are the best pickleball players in the country, if not the world. Top professionals, local legends, players of all ages (amazing pre-teen players from Southern California), and abilities, with play starting at 3.0 level up to the professionals made for great games from dawn until the lights shut down around midnight. There were no losers here, as the USAPA created and managed a spectacular tournament.
Seattle and the metro area were well represented up and down the age and skill spectrum at the USAPA National Pickleball Championships in Indian Wells, California this past November. This isn’t a comprehensive list, so if we missed someone, please let us know.
- Senior pickleball locals Gil Middleton and Yim Lee competed in the 80+ division men’s doubles, and Yim took home bronze in singles.
- David Park and John Lui competed in the Men’s Doubles 3.5 and 35+, and while they didn’t win a medal, John took home Gold for his singles play.
USAPA deserves many kudos for a well run tournament that showcased the sport for a national audience and with free entry, let local fanatics fill the stands and crowd around the courts every day to take in the non-stadium court play. Stadium court, reserved for medal matches and celebrity play, sold out for the last few days of the tournament, and the fireworks on the court helped offset the cool night air. If you weren’t among those who took to the desert for the event this year, book your hotel now for next year. USAPA has a few registration changes in store, but there’ll be plenty of time to let that settle while those who want to play with their counterparts from across the US can start working on their pickleball games. You’ll want to be there.
Fran Myer inducted into the USAPA Pickleball Hall of Fame
Fran Myer likens her induction to the USAPA Pickleball Hall of fame to a Forrest Gump moment, because she feels like she’s been running around, learning how to play pickleball, dragging others onto the courts, building out a pickleball sales business, playing tournaments, organizing the first National Pickleball Tournament, and is still surprised to be honored for her work.
“I wasn’t an athlete,” says the height-challenged player, “and my background was in ballet from the age of 5 until 12, piano throughout high school. I had a lot of music in my background.” Fran attended the University of Washington, where she met her PE requirement by taking a swim test, which when she failed, meant she had to take swimming. Fortunately for the pickleball world, she passed up swimming post college and found another passion, pickleball.
“I was working at UW and they had a pickleball court at the IMA (intramural sports facility),” and Fran took to dragging her coworkers from the Urban Horticulture Center, now the UW Botanical Gardens) to play, “and I brought the paddles and the balls and got these people to come.”
Not much later, she gave in to the allure of tournament play. In fact, that’s where she met her husband Barney. Another Hall of Famer, Sid Williams, tagged Fran to play with some guy needing a partner. They played together, and then several tournaments later, played again. They met in 2000 and married in 2002. Together, they took Fran’s early work on PickleballStuff.com and grew what she started as a website to offer up rules, how to build courts, and so on. “People would email me and ask me where to buy this (pickleball) stuff, and I’d send them to Pickleball Inc. This kept happening over and over. Eventually, I just started selling pickleball stuff myself.”
We went on to talk about the long nights packaging up equipment to ship around the globe. “We wound up selling to people all over the world, Guam, Singapore, Cypress, and even Fiji. And all the states.”
By the time Fran’s husband passed away in 2014, Fran and her pickleball venture, and her reputation as a teacher and organizer, were already Hall-of-Fame worthy. The first National tournaments existed because of the efforts of Fran and the handful of Seattle players working to grow the sport. But the bright lights of Indian Wells not only dazzled the 2000-plus players there, but shone brightly on Fran Myer as she was recognized for her work to develop pickleball.
When asked what she wants for pickleball moving forward, Fran said, “Where it’s headed, given the fact that it has grown so fast, it’ll become an Olympic sport. It won’t be very much longer before people will start lobbying for including it in the Olympics.”
Fran acknowledged, “The thing is, pickleball grew so quickly that it’s hard to keep up with it. Before we could even say we needed a computerized program to manage the tournaments, we were already getting so many people signing up for them, you just have to run to keep up.” She said that personally, she “wanted there to be pickleball no matter where (she) went…Hartford, CT, Ashland, OR, and California.”
She concluded that “I totally believe in this sport for the health benefits. You’re a winner because you’re out there playing.”
Registration is open for International Indoor Pickleball Championships
Calling all indoor pickleball players. Registration opened this weekend for the International Indoor Pickleball Championship (IIPC) at NW Sports Hub, Centralia, WA, Tuesday 03/26/19 thru Sunday 03/31/19. This excellent tournament is a qualifying event for those who plan to play in the USAPA National Pickleball Championship in 2019.
In the opening hours of registration, the tournament drew 160 players of what will likely wind up being around 500 or more participants. You can play, volunteer, referee, and otherwise meet and enjoy pickleball with an international crowd. This tournament tends to pull some of our Canadian pickleballers across the border, so come and join the fun, eh? See PickleballTournaments.com and navigate to the registration page to sign up for this great indoor venue.
And in other news…
Looking for games during the winter?
Seattle evening and weekend pickleball is being preempted by the children’s basketball season. There are still some options available, and here’s what we’re suggesting. send an email to Christopher Williams, the Parks superintendent, and also to the Board of Park Commissioners. No single email is going to change their stance, but the more they hear from pickleball players, the better.
Eckstein Middle School Pickleball Update
The organizers for this project to resuscitate the existing school courts for pickleball have scheduled a meeting for December 3rd (Monday) at 6:30 – 7:30 PM (meeting room open at 6:15) in the Seattle Public Library NE Branch (35th Ave and NE 68th St). The purpose of the meeting is to provide general information about what is coming in the months ahead, solicit initial project feedback and answer any questions.
Still More Seattle City Planning on the Horizon
Seattle Parks department’s planning process is underway. There should be an opportunity for public comments on the plan in the Spring. We’ll keep you posted if we learn anything new on this.
Holiday Gift Planning
We’re Seattle METRO Pickleball Association for a reason, and that means we want to promote and assist in the growth of pickleball all around the area. Help us grow and plan to get involved with our activities.
If you’re looking for a holiday gift for your favorite partner…
An SMPA membership makes for wonderful gift any time of the year. At twenty bucks (US) and no wrapping, you’ve checked off a gift and helped SMPA grow our membership.
Want to give something more?
Seattle Metro Pickleball Association is a registered 501c3 organization, yes, non-profit, and your year-end, tax deductible contributions would be both deeply appreciated and 100% used to promote pickleball in the area. And ultimately? Your gift will help SMPA in our important work of creating and increasing pickleball play opportunities.
Calling all wannabe refs
2019 promises more tournament action than ever, and therefore will require more refs for sanctioned and nonsanctioned tournaments alike. While we don’t have any specific workshops for refs on the schedule yet, we hope to get a series going early in the next year. Between the International Indoor Pickleball Championship in Centralia in March 2019, and a late-July regional tournament (details being ironed out) in Shoreline, the demand for referees is growing. Keep an eye on the SMPA website, follow the newsletter, and we’ll let you know as soon as something’s on the schedule.
Message from the President
In the last two months, SMPA has been working to implement the board’s strategic plan goals set out in the last newsletter. Not always very visible to the members, our Board activities include:
- Investigating several potential sites for dedicated pickleball courts. Our committee has begun to evaluate them using a common set of criteria approved by SPR. We are winnowing the list to focus on sites that will best serve the metropolitan area and the strong demand for more courts. All of this work is in the preliminary stages, but we will keep you informed of our progress as substantive recommendations evolve.
- As part of the effort of engaging with the City of Seattle to help develop more pickleball courts, SMPA Board members received orientation from SPR on the use and application of the Racial, Equity and Justice tool kit which the City wants included in any analysis of potential courts on city property. The purpose of this tool kit is to provide a means of ensuring availability of city programs and facilities to persons of diverse demographic backgrounds and geographic areas. This intense work is something we gladly took on in the interest of developing pickleball for all.
- SMPA accepted an invitation from the Seattle School District to make a presentation in February to an annual conference of physical education teachers in order to educate them about pickleball and suggest a format by which PE teachers of middle school students can teach and play pickleball in PE classes. This is part of our commitment to introduce our sport to others.
- SMPA jumped in to help out the Green Lake Community Center when they started their “Introduction to Pickleball” Saturday classes without an instructor. A number of SMPA members filled in to make sure that the group will leave the 5 week class well grounded in pickleball basics.
- We are exploring new and exciting pickleball events for next year and look forward to sharing these with you in the coming months as planning progresses and the events become more definite. Tournaments? Leagues? Keep tuned.
On behalf or our entire board of directors, I send you our best wishes for happy, healthy and safe holidays. We are looking forward an exciting 2019.
Seattle Metro Pickleball Association
Jerry Kindinger, President