Pickleball’s popularity continues to grow in Park City | ParkRecord.com

Pickleball’s popularity continues to grow in Park City

The Park City Pickleball Club has surpassed 400 members and is still growing

Gene DeSantis reaches up to return a volley during a game of pickleball at the Willow Creek Park complex Monday morning.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Walk past Willow Creek Park on any given morning, and it’s virtually guaranteed that one will hear the pinging of pickleballs against paddles and the court. The park is ground zero for the community’s growing pickleball player base.

The Park City Pickleball Club, founded in October 2019, is at the forefront of the growing pickleball community in Park City. The club boasts over 400 members, and club president Greg Leitzke says that it welcomes 10 to 20 new members every week. A Memorial Day tournament at City Park had over 100 players.

“People love it, they gravitate toward it,” Leitzke said. “It’s a very easy sport to manage and be in charge of because it’s just pickleball, people love it. There’s no pressure, really. It’s very social, people get out and meet new people. And that’s why it’s so popular.”

Pickleball is similar to tennis and ping pong. The game is played with a paddle and a ball that is similar to a wiffle ball and can be played in either singles or doubles. Pickleball is usually played on tennis courts, as four pickleball courts can fit on one tennis court.

There is some contention between tennis players and pickleball players in Park City as they compete for precious time and space on the court. Leitzke likened it to the rivalry between skiers and snowboarders or road biking versus mountain biking.

“You know, there’s always these transitional sports that kind of, you know, people always want to push away and stay traditional,” Leitzke said.

He estimates that 75% of the club’s members previously played tennis at some point and says the skills transfer over well. The plus side to pickleball is that it’s great for older players, as there’s less space to cover. Almost all of the club is over the age of 50.

“In pickleball, it’s very short, soft, controlled shots in the higher level game than it is a lot of banging and hard strokes,” Leitzke said. “So that’s why even active adults who play after they’re retired or are retirement age because they don’t have this big court to cover. They cover this small court and be able to just control the ball and play it over the net.”

Ted Hollander returns a volley during a game of pickleball at the Willow Creek Park complex Monday morning. Hollander played on a team with his wife, Carol.
Tanzi Propst/Park Record

Carol Wexler is one of the club’s members and says she is having the time of her life playing pickleball. Wexler previously played tennis, but she loves the friendly nature of pickleball. She visited a friend in Arizona who introduced her to the sport, and Wexler’s been hooked ever since.

“It’s much more fun, and it’s a great game as you get older,” she said. “It’s more of a strategic game than it is running around a tennis court. And the people who play it, they get out there, they want to have fun. They want to have competitive fun. And there’s a lot of laughing and joy to be out on a pickleball court.”

One of the aspects of pickleball that players often mention is the social aspect of the game. Leitzke said that pickleball has more of a mixer vibe, while tennis is more structured.

“For example, if you took a pickleball paddle and went down to Willow Creek Park tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock, if you had any semblance of knowing how to play — even if you didn’t, they would show you — you walk out there and you would meet 20 people within the next hour and a half,” he said. “And that’s why I went from knowing maybe 20, 30 people in town, even though I lived here 15 years, and now I started to play pickleball and immediately I had like 50 friends.”

As the weather gets warmer and Park City welcomes summer, get used to hearing the sounds of pickleball.

“Being a senior citizen, I’m just pleased that I can be out playing something like this, and I can play with people for every age group, which is wonderful,” Wexler said. “You’ll hear a lot of laughter and see a lot of joy.”

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