The sport of pickleball has grown so popular in Morro Bay that local club organizers of the sport say it’s time for permanent courts to be established.
Kathy Thomas, the sport’s district co-ambassador, said that since her group began the Morro Bay Pickleball Club in October 2014, more than 4,000 players from 11 states and three countries have participated.
The Morro Bay City Council will consider the club’s proposal to establish four permanent playing courts at Del Mar Park, with netting, replaced fencing and windblocks. The group now uses temporary courts there.
“We have to set up and take down the nets every day,” Thomas said. “We’d like to have permanent courts there for people to use.”
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The City Council is tentatively scheduled to consider the proposal at its second meeting in February, Deputy City Manager Sam Taylor said.
“What we’re hearing is that there has been growth in this sport nationwide,” Taylor said. “This could be a way to draw people to Morro Bay and create some economic development. People who play pickleball in Paso Robles or Arizona may not want to play in hot summer conditions and come here.”
The racquet sport is sometimes described as a cross between tennis, badminton and pingpong, and it can be played by people of all ages and skill levels.
The sport is both competitive and relaxing, and it’s very conducive for people to socialize and keep active.
Elliott Gong, Morro Bay Pickleball Club member
Thomas said the Morro Bay club attracts about 20 to 25 pickleball players per day, and it has drawn up to 50 players in a day. They currently play weekdays, scheduling two-hour timeframes for matches or rallying sessions, on an asphalt surface that also serves as a roller hockey rink.
Participants use a paddle to hit a whiffle ball over a net, employing an underhand serve that’s less taxing on the shoulder. Pickleball groups have been established elsewhere in the county, including Paso Robles, Cambria and Pismo Beach.
Players often rotate on and off the court in Morro Bay to serve the demand.
“It doesn’t take much time to learn the game and be proficient,” said Elliott Gong, a club member who plays four or five times per week. “The sport is both competitive and relaxing, and it’s very conducive for people to socialize and keep active.”
1965 The year that pickleball was first played in Bainbridge Island, Washington
Taylor said the city’s Recreation and Parks Commission, an advisory council, endorsed the concept of permanent pickleball courts, though the idea received some opposition from roller hockey and roller derby enthusiasts who use the same surface.
“The roller derby folks say they’re losing their tracks around the county to pickleball,” Taylor said. “Pickleball is taking over. The support for permanent pickleball versus keeping it a hockey rink was 80-20 at the Recreation and Parks Commission meeting.”
Taylor, the deputy city manager, said he believes the Pickleball Club is accurate in its assessment that the court is more heavily used by the sport’s participants than the roller hockey or roller derby players.
Thomas, the district’s co-ambassador, said pickleball is less stressful on the body than activities such as tennis. Thomas said she played tennis for 55 years, but the strain became too much.
The club, which operates under the jurisdiction of Morro Bay Senior Citizens Inc., has already begun raising the $40,000 it needs to create a permanent court. The city anticipates kicking in about $17,000 toward the project, said Taylor, noting the council will make a final decision on the budget.
The club has held tournaments and clinics, and plans to hold United States of America Pickleball Association events if the planned regulation courts are built.