Pickleball’s popularity is peaking in Ottawa as there aren’t enough courts in the city to keep up with demand, a local association says.
The low-impact, highly social sport, a cross between badminton, tennis and ping-pong, started mostly with retirees, but has been attracting players of all ages across Ottawa, and the record is through the roof.
“We’re at the highest membership we’ve ever had,” said Diana Dowthwaite, pickleball coordinator for the Manotick Tennis Club board and president of the Ottawa Pickleball Association (OPA).
The club has a maximum of 700 indoor registration spots and a waiting list that runs into the hundreds. And that’s just a club.
Dowthwaite says it points to not only a growing interest in the game, but also a need for more spaces both indoors and out.
More recreational spaces are needed
Riverside South-Findlay Creek County. Steve Desroches says the city faces recreational pressures, noting specifically that pickleball could use a few more courts.
At a committee meeting in March, Desroches floated the idea of temporarily turning the empty OC Transpo park and ride into Rideauview so it could be used in the summer for pickleball and other popular sports.
While the idea wasn’t rejected outright, pickleball was off the table.
“They didn’t think pickleball would be feasible, since you would need some netting around the court,” Desroches said.
OC Transpo announced that they are willing to consider programming proposals for the lots on a case-by-case basis, but only for activities that do not require the installation of equipment on the site.
Vying for court time
While unloved pavement isn’t an ideal playing surface, the OPA says that with the outdoor season fast approaching, they’ll take up just about any space.
“It would have to be maintained a bit, but [there are] lots of huge unused parking lots,” said Paul Leck, OPA skills coordinator.
The number of outdoor spaces for club players seems to be dwindling.
After last summer’s games at Centennial Park, Manotick Tennis Club received too many noise complaints from neighbors and the city said that outdoor pickleball in the park could not continue.
To help make up the shortfall, the city has offered to paint lines at some stadiums, including one next to the park.
In the parks and recreation master planthe city has development plans to build 39 new pickleball courts over the next decade.
There are currently 233 pickleball courts: 172 outdoors and 61 indoors. Public courts with pickleball lanes and high-height tennis nets are included in these numbers, although they do not meet the standard for competitive play.
While Ottawa already far surpasses other Canadian cities when it comes to pickleball services, the number of local players is still expected to double in the next few years.
“It’s fun,” Leck said. “It was very easy to learn and you meet a lot of great people.”