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Pickleball proponents have a new place to play

Sudbury's first outdoor courts dedicated to pickleball open at O'Connor Playground

The sun was shining and the mood was celebratory as the city of Greater Sudbury officially opened its first outdoor courts dedicated exclusively to pickleball on Sept. 6.

Located at the O'Connor Playground, the former tennis courts have been re-purposed to accommodate six pickleball courts, complete with permanent pickleball nets for enthusiasts of the sport to enjoy during warm weather months.

Never heard of pickleball? It's a cross between tennis, badminton, and table tennis and is played with a paddle and wiffle ball on a court that is roughly half the size of a regulation tennis court. You can check out a video demonstration produced of the sport that is rapidly growing in popularity here.

Sudbury mayor Brian Bigger, Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann, and Sudbury MP Paul Lefebvre were joined by members of the Greater Sudbury Pickleball Association (GSPA) Thursday morning for the official opening of the courts.

"These types of announcements are always a pleasure for us," said Lefebvre. "Getting to share in the successes and the efforts of our community, it's the best part of our job. When people apply for these funds, community groups like this are well-organized, have a plan and a great group of volunteers to make these plans happen, it just makes sense for these types of projects to move forward."

Construction of the courts began in May of this year to re-purpose the 13,310 sq. ft. area previously designated for tennis.

The project was made possible thanks in large part to a $23,500 investment through the government of Canada's New Horizons for Seniors Program and a $28,000 investment from the city under their Healthy Community Initiative Fund and capital budget.

"It's extremely gratifying to see members of the community coming together to make things happen, like this pickleball court," said Bigger. "These are the brainchild of the members of the Greater Sudbury Pickleball Association who sourced the funding and worked with city staff to build a facility that rivals any in Ontario."

The courts on St. George Street are in Ward 12, and Coun. Landry-Altmann received the biggest cheers from the crowd on the day and was presented with a bouquet of flowers as a token of appreciation from the members of the GSPA.

"Pickleball really is an ideal sport," said Landry-Altmann. "It requires only a net, paddle and a ball and it's really friendly to aging bodies, but it's not exclusive to seniors. Youth love the sport as well. One of our goals is to work with the Greater Sudbury Pickleball Association to engage our local youth. It's a healthy way to connect with like-minded individuals."

The work of Landry-Altmann and city council did not go unnoticed by the Association, who commended the partnership that was formed to get the courts built in such short order.

"This facility is a concrete example of the progress that can be achieved when you develop solid working partnerships with city leaders and staff," said Sharon Bourque, secretary with GSPA. "This has gone from concept to reality in just over a year and that is a remarkable achievement."

Bob Miller is a member of the executive with the GSPA and heads up day to day matters in Valley East. He was also one of the most active supporters of growing the sport in Sudbury and he was beaming from ear to ear during the grand opening on Thursday.

"It's quite a landmark really. You find that when people are really dedicated to something you can see the importance of the sport and what it means to us," said Miller. "The sport is really popular in Florida and south of the boarder and we're trying to catch up to that. We'd like to one day be the northern hub for pickleball."

The courts are located at 140 St. George Street at the O'Connor Playground and are open on a first-come first-served basis. Pickleball equipment can be signed out from Greater Sudbury Public Library locations.