By Grace King, Mt. Pleasant News
Pickleball is the future for a committee of private residents campaigning to raise money to replace the old tennis courts at Mt. Pleasant Middle School with a new six-court pickleball complex.
The grassroots fundraising effort is supported by the school district, the Mt. Pleasant Area Chamber Alliance and Healthy Henry County Communities (HHCC). In fact, the Pickleball Committee began their fundraising efforts by seeking to apply for a grant through HHCC in February but were unable to meet the quick deadline.
Now, they have taken matters into their own hands, holding meetings and seeking pledges from the community. After three meetings held just last week, $18,000 has already been pledged. The project is projected to cost $100,000.
?This is something I?ve been wanting to redo over a decade,? said Middle School Exercise Science teacher Adam Smith.
The Pickleball Committee?s timeline is to collect pledges this summer and fall. Once they know they have the support of the community, they will begin applying for grants in the fall of 2018 and spring of 2019. The courts will hopefully be built next summer.
The sport, which is a hybrid of tennis, Ping-Pong and badminton, is largely considered to be the fastest growing sport in the U.S. Players use a paddle to hit a Wiffle ball over a low net, playing in singles or doubles at an easygoing, yet entertaining pace. It has been increasing in popularity in Mt. Pleasant for years, brought back by the snowbirds who travel to Arizona every year during the winter.
If building the pickleball courts comes to fruition, committee members say the courts will be open to everyone in the community outside of school hours. Just as importantly, it is a beautification project as the courts will sit just behind the Mt. Pleasant Amtrak, which ushers in visitors to the community.
?I think it would be a great thing for our tourism efforts,? said Kristi Ray, executive vice president of the Chamber. ?We told (the committee) we would be glad to help them market that campaign, write grants and letters of support,? she said.
?Certainly, the eyesore aspect is one piece of it,? Smith said. ?It?s a gateway to the city where Amtrak is. We have a beautiful middle school facility and you just have bad asphalt. This one got beyond the point of fixing up. It?s just something we need to reinvest in.?
From the moment Smith was hired at the middle school just a few years ago, getting pickleball courts has been a goal for him. He teaches three-week pickleball units during his PE classes. He is also professionally involved in pickleball in Iowa. Several days a week, he plays with other members of the community in the gymnasium at The REC Center where they set up three courts with four players each and have other players waiting on the sidelines.
Chris Prellwitz, Pickleball Committee member and snowbird herself, said a big draw for the game is how social it is. During games at The REC Center on Tuesday, July 17, she pointed out two middle school students who learned the sport in school playing with two seniors in the community.
While some players learned the sport on vacation or in school, others just happened upon the sport by chance.
Like many people who make New Years? resolutions, Mary Garmoe and her daughter joined The REC Center in January, picked up some weights, stepped onto the machines and found it wasn?t for them.
It was with a little bit of courage that they asked to join pickleball players at The REC Center who they had seen playing almost every day of the week.
Six months later, the mother and daughter can be found playing pickleball five days a week, morning alarms going off at 6 a.m. to usher them out the door and onto the court.
?I had never heard of it until we started, but it amazes me now that we?re playing how big it is,? Garmoe said.
?That?s the atmosphere. People feel like they can join in,? Smith said, complimenting the progress of Garmoe?s pickleball skills in only six months. ?Now they?re seasoned veterans.?
For more information about pickleball or how to be involved in fundraising efforts, email Adam Smith at email@example.com or Chris Prellwitz at firstname.lastname@example.org.