Pickleball is picking up in Dakota County

  • Article by: NICOLE NORFLEET , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 7, 2010 - 5:33 PM

Terry Taylor, 69, teaches pickleball on a modified Rosemount tennis court. Several towns have similar courts.

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A converted tennis court in Rosemount recently drew pickleball players out into the fresh air. Terry Taylor, far right, teaches the sport once a week in Rosemount.

Photo: David Brewster, Star Tribune

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When 69-year-old Terry Taylor returned to Rosemount after wintering in Florida last year, he was excited to practice pickleball, a game half badminton and half pingpong that he learned at his stay at a Bonita Springs resort.

But he couldn't find a place to play.

Now, more than a year since he first picked up a pickleball paddle, Taylor, a retired truck driver, is teaching the sport once a week at a Rosemount tennis court that he urged the city to re-stripe for pickleball.

"In three or five years, this could be in the Olympics. I wouldn't doubt it," Taylor said, as he chatted with other players and watched a pickup game one recent Thursday morning.

Pickleball is played on a badminton-size court with a lowered net. The goal is to volley a small plastic ball back and forth. People can play one-on-one or on doubles teams.

A pickleball court is smaller than a tennis court, making it easier to cover, especially for seniors. Serves have to be done underhand.

As the sport has grown in popularity, several cities in and around Dakota County have retrofitted some tennis courts so their seniors can take a whack at the game. Rosemount converted its court in June so that people could play tennis and pickleball.

"I really enjoy seeing people outside and doing something rather than inside reading the newspaper or watching television," Taylor said.

Joyce Breyette, 69, learned about the game six years ago when she was wintering in Arizona. Tape had been placed on a parking lot to represent the pickleball court lines, she said. Now, they have a bunch of courts.

"I think the sport is so well-rounded for us," said Breyette, a retired secretary who plays three to four times a week. "It makes us move. It makes us think more than we would if we were couch potatoes."

In her hometown of Apple Valley, there isn't a place to play yet, she said. While she's able to find other courts in neighboring towns, Breyette said more courts should be opened.

"We find that most of the tennis courts in Apple Valley and Rosemount, nobody is using them, especially when we, people who are retired, are out here," she said. "You might as well put them to use."

Jim Propes, 64, of Woodbury, said when he plays pickleball he gets as much exercise as he would if he had walked four or five miles. Propes has a bad back and wears a brace on his right ankle.

"Years ago, I played tennis, but as you get older, it's really hard to cover a court in a doubles game, let alone a singles game," he said.

On some days, Propes said, he has spent two hours in the car to travel back and forth to Eden Prairie, the closest place around with indoor courts.

Soon Propes will be able to use a court in Woodbury. The city is putting in lines on two tennis courts this month.

There are pickleball courts in a host of other communities in the metro area, including Bloomington, Lakeville, Eden Prairie and Edina.

Sue Bohnsack, program coordinator for the senior center in Eden Prairie, said she encourages people to play. Besides promoting physical activity, it also gives people a sense of camaraderie, Bohnsack said.

Taylor wants to see Rosemount create an indoor pickleball court in its community center gym.

Tom Schuster, parks supervisor for Rosemount, said the gym is being used for events and several indoor sports.

"There are already a lot of lines on the gymnasium floor," he said.

But Schuster hasn't ruled out more outdoor courts.

"If the demand grows, we will have to look at other sites," he said.

Taylor said he will continue to encourage the city to add courts.

"When they see me walk in, they'll say, 'Oh God, there's that pickle guy.' That's what you got to do, let them know that you are still here."

Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495

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