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Get ‘pickling’ on these outdoor courts

Pickleball, a relatively new sport, has really taken off, growing 224 percent over the last three years and becoming the fastest-growing sport in the United States, according to Pickleheads.com. With this growth comes the need for more spaces to play, and many cities and athletic clubs are putting in courts to keep up with the demand. Unlike my hometown of Salem, Oregon, which has only two public courts, greater Kalamazoo has dozens. If you want to pick up a paddle and try out the sport, here are five great outdoor places to start:

6321 S. 6th St., Texas Township

Texas Township’s 6th Street Park is a park on the rise. The township has started a multi-phase development of this park and the first phase, completed in 2021, added eight pickleball courts. These courts are open to the public during park hours, which are dawn to dusk. The courts are fenced, with wind- and debris-blocking fabric to help make playing there even nicer. The courts are positioned in a continuous line, with fences between the courts. If the courts are not very busy, you can have an empty court between your group and the next group playing.

For more information on the park, visit texastownship.org.

Multiple locations

If you are looking for a smaller number of courts that might be nearby, there are quite a few neighborhood parks that have pickleball courts open to the public. Most of these parks have only on-street parking and may lack amenities, such as restrooms. Here are three that have dedicated pickleball courts:

  • Crane Park, 2099 S. Park St., Kalamazoo, two courts, open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Frays Park, 1006 Piccadilly Road, Kalamazoo, two courts, open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Lexington Green Park, 4750 Pittsford Road, Portage, two courts, open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

There are other neighborhoods with courts, but these range from repurposed tennis courts to open spaces. To find more courts and additional information, visit pickleballoutreach.com.

122 N. Riverview Drive, Parchment

One of the closest places to downtown Kalamazoo to play pickleball, Kindleberger Park, has four courts. Kindleberger isn’t the largest space available to play, but it does have consistent drop-in play on Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 8 or 9 a.m., depending on the weather. If you are looking for a higher level of play (USA Pickleball ranking of 4.0 or higher), there is drop-in play on Tuesday and Thursday around 8 or 9 a.m. The courts are fenced in, and there is ample room between the court lines and fencing to allow for movement during play. There are restrooms just up the hill from the courts.

The courts are open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. For more information, visit parchment.org.

8600 S. Sprinkle Road, Portage

If you’re looking for the most courts in one spot, Portage’s Ramona Park is for you. Ramona has 12 courts that are available to the public during park hours, which are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Each court is fenced, so missed balls don’t roll too far. The park hosts drop-in pickleball for all levels from 8:30 a.m. to noon Monday through Saturday and from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Friday. The restrooms are not very far from the courts, and the park also offers a picnic area and a beach to rest and relax after a hot day on the courts.

For more information about the park, visit portagemi.gov. There is also a Facebook page (facebook.com/ramonaparkpickleball) dedicated to pickleball at Ramona Park that can help players find others to play with.

9345 Portage Road, Portage

As the name suggests, Lakeview Park sits on the shore of a lake, Portage’s Austin Lake, and it’s a beautiful place to play pickleball and spend a day. Its four pickleball courts are in the center of the park, on the top of a little hill, with a wonderful view of the area. The courts are fenced in, with dividers between them to make sure you don’t have to chase balls very far if you happen to miss a shot. The park also has restrooms near the courts.

The park is open 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. For more information, visit portagemi.gov.

Jarret Whitenack

An intern at Encore, Jarret hails from Oregon, where he recently graduated from Portland State University with a degree in history.

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