Pickleball - AP
Pickleball champion Ford Roberson practices in Denton, Texas, in this 2015 photo. (Al Key / Associated Press)

Let's avoid the pickle puns.

City officials announced this week that pickleball courts are now available at Bon Air Park, 700 E. Fisher St, bringing the total number of courts available citywide to 13.

Other pickleball courts include four dual-use courts at Highland Park and four dual-use and one dedicated court at Foster Park. Local players can also find indoor pickleball games at the Carver Community Center.

Serving something new at the Carver Community Center

“We determined that the tennis courts at Bon Air Park were underutilized,” said Parks Superintendent Torrey Roe in a media release. “So converting the courts to Pickleball was the best use for that space.” 

City officials cited the sport’s growing popularity as the motivation behind the courts’ conversion.

The USA Pickleball Association, for instance, says its membership has increased 650% since 2013. It was invented in 1965 near Seattle by what the group calls "three enterprising dads" with sons bored by their usual summer activities. 

The official story behind the name is it came from a family dog, Pickles, who would chase after the balls while the three men played the game with their families. 

“The sport is growing rapidly across the country,” said Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight. “This is another great way to provide a space for healthy, physical outdoor activities for residents.”

It's also the goal of pickleball aficionados to appeal to crowds ranging all ages by incorporating courts in places like public parks.

Justin Maloof, executive director of USAPA, told NBC News in April that most of the growth has actually been seen among younger players and not in the group of over-60 players that have become synonymous with the sport.

“When the sport first caught on in the sunbelt states around 2009, it was at 55-plus centers and RV communities,” said Maloof.

“It snowballed from there. But these days, there are many municipalities and parks and rec departments that are setting up courts, making it accessible to a younger crowd.”

In its release, the city described pickleball as the following: A paddleball sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a Wiffle Ball, over a net. The sport shares features of other racquet sports, the dimensions and layout of a badminton court, and a net and rules somewhat similar to tennis, with assorted modifications.

A dog park, the city's fourth, also recently opened at Bon Air Park. The city announced the opening in September.

That Bon Air attraction features equipment like an agility course with a teeter-totter, tunnel-run and weaving pole. It also features fencing and a two-gate entrance meant to stop potential canine escapes.

The other three are Mehlig Dog Park, 1701 W. Carter St., Mohr Dog Park, 2302 Saratoga Ave., and Downtown Dog Park, 321 S. Main St.

George Myers can be reached at 765-454-8585, by email at george.myers@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter @gmyerskt.

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