At 1 year anniversary, Laketown Township’s pickleball courts are popular, poised for expansion

Randy Rypma can hear the ping-ponging of the pickleball paddles from his house just behind the tree line. The sound is music to his ears.

“We play three times a week,” Rypma said about the new courts at Laketown Township Hall Park while praising them as well. He had some tongue-in-cheek advice for township officials, though: “I would say don’t advertise them – gets too busy now.”

More people are discovering one of the best-kept secrets around – the new Laketown Township pickleball courts, 4338 Beeline Road. As the courts get busier, the township is looking to future expansion to accommodate the popular sport.

Long time in the making

The decision to build two pickleball courts in the township took several years of study, according to Tom Shuff, chairperson of the Laketown Township Parks and Recreation Commission. The topic had been on the group’s agenda almost a dozen times since 2018.

“The popularity has been rising for the last 5 to 6 years,” he said. “The fastest growing sport in America today is pickleball.”

The time was right for the project.

“We said let’s do it,” Shuff said.

Construction started in the summer of 2021 at a cost of about $148,000. The courts were complete in the fall, not giving much time for players to enjoy the new courts before the snow fell. As soon as warm weather settled in this spring, though, matches began daily.

The courts are busy every day with games often starting early in the morning.

Play on the courts is free. The township does not regulate use – first come, first serve. There is chalk and blackboards for players to sign up and keep track of their time. Participants bring their own equipment. The township asks that people be respectful of each other and enjoy the facilities.

The two courts are behind the township hall. There are benches along the courts — “It’s also a great spectator sport,” Shuff said — and a portable restroom nearby. A pavilion with picnic tables and a softball field flank the courts.

Parking is available at the township hall.

What is pickleball

Pickleball was invented in 1965 in the Seattle area as a way for parents to entertain their children, according to USA Pickleball’s website and other sources.

The sport is played with a hard, flat paddle and plastic ball with holes, thus the distinctive tap-tap-tap of a vigorous volley, over a net. It can be played as singles or doubles.

There are two stories about how the sport got its name. One story is the name comes from the founder’s dog, Pickles, who would chase the ball.

The other account says the founder’s wife derived the sport’s name from the term “pickle boat,” a term for a rowing boat made up of leftover crew from other boats. Since pickleball is part badminton, part tennis and part table tennis – an activity made of leftovers from other sports – the name stuck.

The Future

After the township finished the new courts, Shuff visited a local church that had indoor and outdoor pickleball courts. The secretary there had heard about Laketown’s project.

“She said, ‘Your biggest problem is you’re going to need two more courts,’” Shuff said.

She was right, he added.

The township is already planning for expansion with preliminary plans prepared to add two more pickleball courts, playground and more trails to the township hall site. Planners are just waiting for the release of American Rescue Plan Act funds from the state for recreational projects and other grants. When that happens, the township will be ready to submit a proposal to enlarge its pickleball possibilities.

Cheryle DeWilde, left, of Laketown Township and Marylynn Webster, right, of Laketown Township return a hit from George Holmes of Holland, right foreground, and Cathy Holmes, not in photo, on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, at the Laketown Township Hall Park pickleball courts, 4338 Beeline Road.
Cheryle DeWilde, front left, of Laketown Township and Marylynn Webster, front right, of Laketown Township, and Cathy Holmes, back left, of Holland, and George Holmes, back right, of Holland, play pickleball on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, at the Laketown Township Hall Park pickleball courts, 4338 Beeline Road.
Cheryle DeWilde of Laketown Township and Cathy Holmes of Holland, on the left, volley with Marylynn Webster of Laketown Township and George Holmes of Holland on Friday, Aug. 26, 2022, at the Laketown Township Hall Park pickleball courts, 4338 Beeline Road.