Buildable pickleball courts, open to the public

CLIFTON — It is estimated that nearly 5 million Americans play pickleball, a growing racquet sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong.

Bowing to calls from residents, Clifton will build 12 dedicated pickleball courts over the next year, to complement the hybrid courts created by adding lines to tennis courts in recent years.

Largely funded by Green Acres funds, the courts will be open to everyone, Councilwoman Lauren Murphy said.

Above all, they will be far enough from residences to limit the noise complaints that have obsessed the sport. The use of hard paddles and hard plastic balls required for the sport has led noise complaints in some towns, such as Ridgewood.

“It took us a while to get through it,” Murphy said. “At first, it was a resounding ‘no'” to requests for dedicated jurisdictions.

Bloomfield Mayor Michael Venezia joins the party on Sept. 13 by opening the township's new pickleball and tennis courts at Memorial Park.

Two new courts, about half the size of tennis courts, are planned for Richardson Scale Park, four at the Athenia Steel Recreation Complex and six near the skating area at Weasel Brook Park. Five more are planned for 2023, three at Ravine Park and two at Dunney Park.

Athenia and Skate Zone in particular were selected because the noise generated during play should not disturb neighbors, officials said,

The city’s decision to create dedicated courts took time. More than two years ago, resident Michael Miller asked the city council to consider adding pickleball to its sports programs.

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What is pickleball?

Two years ago, by the board members’ own admission, they had no idea what pickleball was.

For years after the sport’s invention in the mid-1960s, it was widely popular in retirement communities and only gradually grew into the juggernaut it is today. The Sports & Fitness Industry Association calls it the fastest growing sport in the country.

For Clifton resident Al Lise, it’s a reason to get off the couch. “I hate walking,” Lise said. “It definitely helped me.”

The city has added pickleball lines to tennis courts at Albion, Chelsea, Dudiak, Stefan Tatarenko, Holster and Main parks and several other city courts.

Sound deadening curtains will be fitted around the Ridgewood pickleball courts in hopes of reducing noise in the surrounding neighborhood.

However, having a dedicated tribunal makes a huge difference, Miller said.

For one thing, players don’t have to chase balls all over a converted tennis court, which Miller says gets old fast.

On the other hand, it means players don’t get confused when trying to discern which line is for which sport.

Pickleball veteran Cuc Dang said playing is good for her mental health, especially during COVID. Dang said that in addition to building courts in the city, “we would like to be able to play at night.”

There are few places in North Jersey to play pickleball at night, the closest to Clifton being Little Falls.

While some council members seemed on board with the idea, City Manager Nick Villano said the best bet to get lights built was to find a grant, such as open space funding.

“I hate to rain on everyone’s parade, but we don’t have the money,” he said at a council meeting this week. He estimates that lighting the courts could easily cost $150,000.

Miller said he hopes to take the opportunity to teach more how to play the game. After starting to play with a buddy several years ago, Miller started teaching it.

the Clifton Pickleball Facebook Group now has over 300 members and he hopes to hold clinics to teach others.

Matt Fagan is a local reporter for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @fagan_nj

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