RACINE — It’s the most popular sport you never heard of.
And it’s called ... pickleball.
It may have a silly name, but the people who play it are serious about the positive impact it has made on their lives.
Similar to tennis, the game has grown steadily during the past few years.
Growth has been the strongest in places like Florida and Arizona that have large senior populations, but there has also been increasing interest and participation among retirees in the Racine area.
On Wednesday, close to a dozen of the sport’s devotees filed into the City Hall Annex, 800 Center St., in an effort to convince the Board of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services to give them more city-owned places to play, especially outside.
Pickleball is already played at Tyler-Domer and Cesar Chavez, and Humble Park community centers, but only inside.
Wind Point resident Victor Moreno, a new convert to the game, recently approached Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Director Tom Molbeck asking that he and the board consider transforming outdoor tennis courts at either Humble Park or Island Park community centers into pickleball courts.
“Both (community centers) have three tennis courts that could be converted to allow six pickleball courts in total,” the retired teacher wrote in his letter to Molbeck.
Moreno added that he could probably find plenty of players to volunteer their time to help create the temporary or permanent courts.
On Wednesday, Moreno, 58, made his formal pitch to the full board. During his presentation, his fellow pickleball fans, including Tony Catrine, a local representative of the USA Pickleball Association and an instructor, made sure the board also knew their passion for the game.
“It is fun. It is quick. It is active,” said Moreno, who was introduced to the sport at the Sun City Grand Senior Community in Surprise, Ariz. “If you take a look at these individuals over here . . . we are pretty much at that age where you could consider some of (us) over the hill, but (we) are all involved in playing the game.”
Angie Palacios, 60, of Mount Pleasant, a retired educational assistant, said she got hooked on the game the first time she picked up a racquet.
“Doggone it, I am addicted to it,” she told the board.
Catrine, 60, of Sturtevant, took pains to point out that seniors aren’t the only people in the area that love the game.
“I know some 30 year-olds who would love to be able to find some courts and play,” he said. “It’s not limited to seniors. Seniors have picked it up because we can play it.”
Molbeck told the group he wasn’t sure that courts could be constructed at Island Park, but that Humble Park could work as a possible location.
With that information in mind, board members, many of whom said they were impressed with the players’ enthusiasm for the sport, voted to approve Moreno’s request, at least in concept, noting that the group would have to work with parks and recreation staff to come up with a feasible plan.
What is pickleball?
Named after the co-inventors’ dog and not a brined cucumber, pickleball is a recreational sport that is gaining in popularity across the country.
A cross between tennis and pingpong, it is played on a court that is roughly half the size of a tennis court.
Players use wooden or composite paddles similar to those used in pingpong. The ball used is similar to a small sized Wiffle ball.
The game is typically played by teams of two. The net used is 34 inches at the center — about two inches lower than the typical height for a tennis net.