Getting into a pickle is now much easier and more fun in Kent.
Pickleball Central opened the Pickleball Station last Saturday at 22330 68th Ave. S. The facility offers indoor courts open to the public, along with lessons and a pro shop featuring paddles, balls and apparel.
Saturday the four courts were busy with pickleball players at all levels, from professionals to beginners.
According to the Pickleball Central press release the Pacific Northwest is the “birthplace of pickleball,” but until Pickleball Station opened there were no “dedicated indoor court facilities in the Seattle area.”
Karen Thomas, director of marketing and communications for Pickleball Central, said the sport attracts all levels of players. Thomas was a competitive tennis player who became interested in pickleball and is now an enthusiastic and dedicated player. She showed her skills Saturday playing in a doubles match with Takako Tourangeau, also a top player.
Thomas said the game was invented on Bainbridge Island in 1965 by Congressman Joel Pritchard, Barney McCallum and Bill Bell. She said the three were “looking for a game for their kids beside badminton.” Pritchard and his friends came up with pickleball, and suddenly the adults were playing with the kids.
From Bainbridge Island in 1965, pickleball took off and is now the fastest growing sport in the U.S. Thomas said it has topped more than 2.4 million players.
She said she took up the game because tennis was becoming too stressful on her body.
“As you get older tennis is hard on your body,” Thomas said. “And it can be complicated to orchestrate a game. You often have to belong to an expensive club.”
At first when she heard of pickleball she thought it wouldn’t be competitive enough or give her enough of a workout.
“After playing the first time for two hours I was working up a good sweat,” she said.
One of the most appealing aspects of the game according to Thomas is the friendly culture.
“With pickleball I can show up and have a group who want to play,” she said. “It’s easy to find people to play with and talk with; it’s a very social game and it’s easy to engage people.”
One reason Thomas thinks there is a friendly culture in pickleball is the court is smaller than tennis, 20 feet-by-44 feet.
The USA Pickleball Association describes the sport on its website as combining “many elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong.”
It is played indoors and outdoors on a “badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net.”
The sports uses a paddle and plastic balls with holes and is played with singles or doubles matches.
Pickleball Station is featuring the Northwest Invitational on July 1.
Thomas said a select group of professionals and 5.0 ranked players (the top rank under professional) have been invited. Kyle Yates, the top male professional pickleball player, will be at the invitational.
Pickleball has caught on with all age groups and athletic abilities. Thomas said the reason is the sport is “easy to pick up. There is a quicker learning curve than tennis.” Ping pong players often pick the sport up quickly.