July 21, 2024


Day With badminton

Pickleball Growing at Community Centers, Schools

5 min read

By Tim Farmer

A triumphant smile spreads across Bud Klein’s face. At 91, he’d just landed a shot along the edge of the court that his decades-younger pickleball opponent had no chance of returning. It was a Saturday morning at the Carver Senior Center in Purcellville, and Klein was right where he likes to be—on the court. 

“Nice shot,” said his opponent, and a few spectators waiting their turn to play break into applause. After a moment the chatter resumes, underlining the social aspect of one of the fastest growing sports in America. 

Pickleball is particularly popular with the over-55 set, in part because it’s not as stressful on the body as tennis. But it also affords exercise and a chance to interact for the players, many of whom are retired and sometimes isolated. 

“It’s a great sport,” said Klein, a retired merchandising manager for a line of department stores, and entrepreneur who launched his own stores. “It gets me out of the house.” 

He and fellow Carver Center regulars Denise Amonson and Matthew Gallelli helped bring indoor pickleball to Purcellville, even though Klein had never played before. “I’d watched people playing in Leesburg, and it looked like fun,” he said. 

With the determination you might expect from a man who was an Air Force drill sergeant during the Korean War, he convinced the Carver Center to allow players to place tape on the floor of the building’s multipurpose room to mark court boundaries until permanent lines were painted. One of the players bought and donated a portable net, and after the first game Klein was bitten by the pickleball bug. “I was hooked,” he said. 

Pickleball combines elements of tennis, ping-pong and badminton, with players—usually two per side like doubles tennis—using paddles to whack a perforated plastic whiffle ball over a net. The sport was inadvertently invented in 1965 when two fathers in Washington state, their kids bored on a nice day, cobbled together ping pong paddles, a badminton net, and a whiffle ball for an improvised game. Today, more than 4 million people play the sport, according to USA Pickleball, the sport’s governing body. 

At age 91, Bud Klein is one of the driving forces behind the growth of pickleball in Loudoun. Photo by Tim Farmer

That popularity comes at a price, though. Demand for court space is growing fast, especially indoor courts during cold or wet weather. The Carver Center is one of five senior centers in Loudoun that offer indoor pickleball for members, who must be at least 55 to join. A number of the county’s parks, community and recreation centers also offer the sport for all ages, though most of these are outdoors.

A recent agreement between Loudoun Parks and Recreation and Loudoun Public Schools will see two existing tennis courts at four of the county’s high schools painted this summer to add lines for 16 pickleball courts, which occupy about half the space of a standard tennis court. Portable nets that can be rolled into place are included in the approved plan, which will be absorbed into existing budgets. 

Supervisor Juli Briskman (D-Algonkian) brought the matter before the joint Board of Supervisors/School Board Committee, and the proposal was approved late last year.

“In future years, we would continue to paint pickleball courts on two tennis courts at each high school when the tennis courts were scheduled for renovation,” according to Don Treanor V, the school division’s facilities manager.

Park View, Potomac Falls, Tuscarora, and Woodgrove high schools will be the first schools to see the new courts beginning this summer. The courts will be available to the public when not in use by the schools or approved organizations.

“People were determined to play,” Claire Smith, communications manager for Loudoun County Parks, Recreation, and Community Services, said in an email. “We don’t see the trend slowing down. The sport has gained fans of all ages.” 

Phil Baldwin returns a volley during a recent pickleball match at the Carver Center in Purcellville. Photo by Tim Farmer

Popularity among younger players is driven at least in part by pickleball clubs forming at some county high schools, according to Phil Baldwin, USA Pickleball ambassador for western Loudoun, and a certified coach and instructor. “It’s a great sport where students can find an alternative to traditional sports,” he said. 

The need for more indoor courts remains strong, though. 

“Just last year, during the pandemic, the number of pickleball players in the U.S. increased 23 percent,” he said, quoting statistics from USA Pickleball. As a volunteer pickleball ambassador, one of Baldwin’s jobs is to push for more opportunities to play the sport. “Western Loudoun desperately needs a year-round, climate-controlled, dedicated indoor pickleball facility.”

Where to play

Indoor courts:

Loudoun Senior Centers

Memberships to Loudoun Senior Centers is $32 per year for county residents, and covers all centers. Must be 55 or older.

Ashburn Senior Center
20880 Marblehead Drive
Ashburn VA 20147

Carver Senior Center
200 Willie Palmer Way
Purcellville, VA 20132

Dulles South Senior Center
24950 Riding Center Drive
South Riding VA 20152

Senior Center at Cascades
21060 Whitfield Place
Sterling VA 20165

The Senior Center of Leesburg
102 North Street, N.W.
Leesburg VA 20176

Recreation/Community Centers
Fees apply and vary by center. Limited days/times.

Claude Moore Recreation/Community Center
46105 Loudoun Park Lane
Sterling VA 20164

Dulles South Recreation/Community Center
24950 Riding Center Drive
South Riding VA 20152

Ida Lee Park Recreation Center

60 Ida Lee Drive NW
Leesburg VA 20176

703 777-1368

Lovettsville Community Center
57 E. Broadway
Lovettsville VA 20180

For-profit, membership required

Michael & Son Sportsplex at Dulles
21610 Atlantic Boulevard
Sterling VA 20166

Outdoor Courts

Franklin Park
17501 Franklin Park Drive
Purcellville VA 20132

Gwen Thompson Briar Patch Park
21660 Sterling Boulevard
Sterling VA 20164

Loudoun Valley Community Center
320 W. School Street
Purcellville VA 20132

Lucketts Community Center
42361 Lucketts Road
Leesburg VA 20176

Potomac Green Neighborhood Park
20750 Marblehead Drive
Ashburn VA 20147

Planned or under construction/renovation

Bles Park
44830 Bles Park Drive
Ashburn VA 20147

Conklin Community Park
25701 Donegal Drive
Chantilly VA 20152

Hal and Berni Hanson Regional Park
Evergreen Mills Road
Arcola VA 20166

Sterling Community Center (indoor)
120 Enterprise Street
Sterling VA 20164

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