For a couple of years now, a passion for pickleball has been apparent in Maricopa. It has now reached the point that aficionados are asking the City of Maricopa for courts of their own.
The pickleballers’ estimated cost of eight dedicated pickleball courts is $200,000.
Pickleball ambassador and advocate Rocky Myers is convinced having a bigger pickleball presence will be a boost to the Maricopa economy.
“It will bring in more retirees, and pretty soon retirees will make up one in five of the population,” Myers said.
He said he knew families that moved out of Sun Lakes because there were not enough pickleball courts.
Myers is afraid the same could happen in Maricopa.
“Right now pickleball is really growing but there is no place to play,” he said. “There’s plenty of room there at Copper Sky. If they build courts, people will come.”
Maricopan pickleballers have three mornings a week to use half of the gymnasium at Copper Sky, with pickleball lines interspersed with markings from other sports and a surface they do not consider ideal. Outside, they try to play on the tennis courts, which have a net that is too high.
“It’s hard on the tennis players, too,” said Robert Matysiak, 68. “They try to accommodate us, but it’s their court.”
Two years ago, the city added pickleball markings to its tennis courts at Pacana Park.
Pickleball has rules similar to tennis, badminton and ping pong. It was created in the 1960s in Washington.
Matysiak said one of the reasons he enjoys pickleball is the close proximity of the opponents.
“We can talk to each other and joke across the net,” he said. “In tennis, you have to yell across the court.”
It is also not as demanding on the body as tennis while still providing exercise and health benefits. In Maricopa, pickleball first scored in the 55+ community of Province, which was where Myers was introduced to it.
Locally, that has given pickleball the reputation of being a retirees’ game, but Margo Malouf wants to see younger players in Maricopa.
Malouf is also an ambassador, an official title with the USA Pickleball Association.
“When you go around the country, you see a lot of young adults and kids playing,” she said.
In communities with dedicated pickleball courts, children and grandparents alike are playing. “It makes the game more fun,” she said.
For many years, Myers was a competitor in marathon and Ironman events, and he loved playing tennis in college. He thought physical activity of any account was over when he had his knees replaced in 2009.
He discovered pickleball in Province in 2013 and fell in love with it. But he is not a resident of Province. To get his pickleball fix, he would travel to Sun Lakes. He has also played in Ahwatukee, Surprise, Palm Creek and Robson Ranch.
When Copper Sky offered pickleball classes, public interest began to grow. Myers estimated about 300 people play in Maricopa.
“This year, we have noticed more and more people picking up the sport and we find it is harder to get on any court to play,” Glennwilde resident Marilyn Cory said. “We have often driven to each tennis court only to find they are all in use and there are others waiting to play.”
Jeff Whipple, 55, a self-described snowbird from Alberta, Canada, started coming to Maricopa two years ago.
“I came looking for something to do,” he said. “I never heard of pickleball until last year. Now I’m addicted.”
He was one of several players who wrote to Maricopa City Council asking for dedicated courts like the nine in Province.
“Sitting, waiting for courts is very frustrating,” he said. “We completely understand that play falls off after the snowbirds go home, but we believe it is a big drawing card for the city to have public courts.”
He said the eight courts Myers asked city council to consider would be just a start.
“If we had eight courts, we could start having tournaments,” he said.
It is just that idea Myers wants to sell to councilmembers to persuade them pickleball has economic benefits to Maricopa.
“I don’t see any big industry relocating here,” he said. “But I’m convinced people will move here to play pickleball. And some won’t move here because there is really no place to play.”
Pickleball courts are not in the city’s budget.
Contact Rocky Myers at 520-494-2030.
This story appeared in the May issue of InMaricopa.