Basketball courts

The Recorder – Conway endorses pickleball on city basketball courts

Published: 06/26/2022 13:40:53

CONWAY — With a few thousand dollars left to spend before the end of the fiscal year next week, Conway’s Parks, Recreation and Trails Committee is adding another sport for residents.

In a few weeks, pickleball, the trendy and growing sport, will be available on the city’s basketball courts for new and seasoned players. The committee had approximately $3,000 to spend before the end of the fiscal year and the purchase of padlocks, a storage bench, tape, paint, paddles and nets totaled $967.89.

Resident Janice Warner pitched the idea to the committee after taking up the sport with her mother in Hatfield.

“My mom plays and my mom is 70, so people of all ages can play,” Warner said. “It’s so much fun, I think everyone should be able to play.”

Pickleball is a combination of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Played on a 20ft by 44ft court, it is a more accessible version of tennis, where tennis racquets and balls are replaced with a whiffle-like racquet and ball and a subnet of 36 inches. The lowered bar for accessibility allows people of all ages and skills to participate, but there are plenty of opportunities for high-speed competitive play.

“It allows people of all ages and skill levels to hang out,” Warner said. “You don’t have to be a super athlete.”

To start the program, the committee will set up a temporary pickleball court at the city’s basketball courts downtown – a hoop will still be available for basketball. Residents will be able to borrow paddles, balls and nets, which will be in a locked storage bench with a combination that can be purchased from Warner. From there, the committee will gauge interest in the sport and may look into an indoor court somewhere in town for winter and rainy days.

The committee is also considering working with a phone app to set up a schedule if residents show an interest in playing the sport. Member Michael Merritt said investing in sports is a low-risk, high-reward decision that could attract more people to the ballparks around the city. And if the sport doesn’t generate interest, it’s not a huge loss.

“I think it’s a smart idea and I really appreciate all the work you’ve done,” Merritt told Warner. “Best case scenario, word is spreading that it’s so much fun.”

By adding pickleball to the city’s recreational opportunities, Conway joins a growing list of Pioneer Valley towns embracing the sport. Residents of South Hadley have funded the construction of a pitch at Buttery Brook Park, Southampton recently held a groundbreaking ceremony at Conant Park for new pitches and Nonotuck Park in Easthampton has seen a steady stream of pickleballers since opening of its land in April.

The Parks, Recreation and Trails Committee will post a notice on the city’s website when the lands are ready for use. The committee is also looking for new volunteers to staff the board of five people. Interested residents can contact Town Administrator Véronique Blanchard ([email protected]).

“I’m thrilled to have Conway stepping into the pickleball arena,” Merritt said to close the meeting.

Chris Larabee can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4081.