Tim Collins / News staff
Peninsula pickleball enthusiasts are thrilled with the four new pickleball courts recently opened in North Saanich. The four courts were officially opened on August 11 and, since that time, have seen about a hundred players per day come to the site to smack the distinctive yellow ball as laughter and friendly banter fills the air.
But players say it’s time for Sidney and other Central Saanich to recognize the popularity of the game and construct more courts on the peninsula.
“We’re ever hopeful that Sidney and Central Saanich will follow through and give us a place to play. For the past three years we lobbied all three councils (on the Saanich Peninsula), but to date only North Saanich has come through,” said Brenda Hardy, the president of the Saanich Peninsula Pickleball Association.
Pickleball is a sort of modified version of tennis with components of table tennis and badminton thrown in for good measure. The rackets are different, and instead of the fast-moving fuzzy tennis ball we all know, the game is played with a larger, plastic “pickleball”. The game is played on an abbreviated tennis-court-like surface and, like tennis, requires a net across the middle of the court.
But the overlap in the utility of tennis courts and their potential use for pickleball has led to tensions between some tennis players and what they see as pickleball intruders.
One tennis player at Centennial Park, who asked to remain anonymous, complained to PNR that the courts there were never intended for anything but tennis and said the new pickleball lines drawn on the tennis courts are distracting and the pickleball players should find their own facilities.
“I don’t want to get into a fight with tennis players about this. If you ask them all the tennis courts in the communities are fully used and needed just for tennis. I’m not going to argue with them, but I see a lot of vacant tennis courts,” said Hardy.
“Of course we’d like our own courts, but is that the best use of tax dollars? But, in fairness, a lot of the tennis community has been supportive of sharing their courts.”
Hardy said the popularity of pickleball on the peninsula is, in part, due to the aging demographic of the community and the fact that pickleball is physically accessible to everyone, with a smaller playing surface and slower ball allowing for players of all skill and fitness levels to participate.
The majority of the players on the peninsula are seniors with more than 80 per cent of the pickleball association’s members over 60 years-of-age.
“It just makes sense to invest in facilities that matches so well with the population you have in the area. Just go to the new courts and look at who is playing. Doesn’t it make sense to have facilities that are going to keep our elderly people active and healthy?” said Hardy.
The dedicated courts are Birch Road in North Saanich. A list of other locations to play pickleball can be found at seniorschoosingwisely.com.