Pickleball—The Sport with the Funny Name is a Really Big “Dill
It’s probably true that you or someone you know has caught pickleball fever. In fact, according
to a 2022 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball is America’s fastestgrowing
sport. Often described as a combination of tennis, ping-pong and badminton, interest
in pickleball grew nearly 40 percent between 2019 and 2020.
There are several good reasons that players, or “picklers” have picked up their paddles and hit
the pavement, the first of which is that pickleball is a sport most anyone can play. The pace of
the game is slower due in large part to the ball itself— a round plastic, wiffle-like ball that’s far
less bouncy and much easier to control than a tennis ball. The pickleball paddle is much shorter
and lighter than a tennis racket. It more closely resembles a ping-pong paddle, but the head is
larger, which means there’s more surface area to connect with the ball. Picklers also serve
underhand making the ball easier to return.
Although pickleball courts are popping up everywhere, many times (much to the dismay of diehard
tennis players) existing tennis courts are being converted to accommodate the “newish”
sport. One tennis court can provide space for one to four pickleball courts. In comparison, a
regulation tennis court’s playing area is 36 feet by 78 feet while the pickleball court is
considerably smaller at 20 feet by 44 feet.
To convert one tennis court, the easiest approach is to use the existing net, but you must lower
it by two inches in the center. This will put it at 34 inches high. If the tension on the net is too
tight, a ratchet can be used to loosen the line. Pickleball lines can be painted on the court,
ideally in a different color than the tennis lines. Some players find the intermingling lines to be
confusing, but quickly become accustomed to them. As a temporary measure, wide bright tape
can also be used for the lines. Portable barriers can be set up to prevent the ball from traveling
too far out of bounds—and save players from running the entire expanse of the tennis court
chasing balls that have gotten by them.
If you’re looking to create two pickleball courts on one tennis court, you’ll need to bring in two
portable pickleball nets. (This is due to the slant of a regulation tennis net and the fact that it is
higher on the sides than in the middle) You’ll set the two pickleball courts on each side of the
tennis net, effectively using the existing tennis net as a backstop for both pickleball courts as
they will be set-up parallel to the tennis net.
The second option would be to place the pickleball nets directly on top of and following the
tennis court’s center service line on either side of the court. (This means the nets will be set up
perpendicular to the tennis net at about a 90-degree angle).
There’s also ample room to create four pickleball courts on one tennis court. To do this, you’d
follow the same rules for setting up two courts with the nets parallel to the tennis net but put
two on each side of the tennis net instead of only one. You can use the tennis singles lines on
either sideline to reference the middle of your pickleball courts and then lay down your
additional lines accordingly.
It should be noted that permanently converting an existing tennis court to a pickleball court can
run into thousands of dollars. Most of the time, doing so also requires a permit from your city
or town. So, prior to moving forward with drilling holes, resurfacing or line painting, check to
make sure you’re going about it properly.
If you’re fortunate enough to manage a property that boasts tennis courts, it’s likely you’ve
already had residents inquire about converting them to pickleball courts. While you may not
“relish” the idea of including extra expenses in your upcoming operating budget, you could
score some big points by providing the people who call your community home with a red-hot
amenity that brings folks together for fitness and fun.