Pickleball players seek a place for their game | News, Sports, Jobs


– Messenger photo by Britt Kudla

Fort Dodge’s Norine Paulson competes in a friendly pickleball match at Dodger Courts.

Anyone passing by Dodger Courts on the north side of Fort Dodge on a nice morning will likely see people playing a game that looks a lot like tennis.

These players, however, use strong racquets and a ball that looks more like a wiffle ball than a tennis ball.

The game is pickleball and it is rapidly gaining popularity.

“Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country,” said Andy Kennebeck, a Fort Dodge man who has been playing the game for five years. “That’s because anyone, regardless of age or skill level, can start playing right away.”

Kennebeck and at least 10 other pickleball players went to City Council Monday night to ask elected officials to create a dedicated place for them to play their game.

Roxanne Kuhlman, another pickleball player from Fort Dodge, told the council that building pickleball courts would add another quality of life that would help the town attract business and people.

“We think this would be a perfect way for Fort Dodge to be more competitive,” she says.

Kenneback told the board that the game’s popularity was growing.

“We want to raise awareness that there are a lot of people in town ready to play this new sport”, he said. “It’s the new game. We think it’s the future.

“What we would really like to see is a public park with access so that everyone can come and play pickleball,” Kennebeck added.

A pickleball court looks like a tennis court, but is smaller and measures 22 feet by 44 feet. Fort Dodge does not have a real pickleball court.

The game is now played on the basketball courts at Dodger Courts. Lines have been painted on the courts for pickleball.

Kennebeck said because the basketball courts are so popular with neighborhood kids, pickleball can only be played there in the morning. That means a lot of people can’t play because they work in the morning, he said.

He said the surfaces of the hydro park tennis courts and butler courts are too cracked and uneven to play safely.

The city has plans for a pickleball venue with four courts, according to Lori Branderhorst, the city’s director of parks, recreation and forestry. She said the Rosedale Rapids Aquatic Center had been identified as the best place to build it.

“We really want to move this project forward,” she says.

However, she said the project was not funded.

The council took no action on pickleball on Monday.

Councilman Kim Alstott suggested that pickleball players raise money to help pay for the construction of new courts.

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