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Max Patterson Park's 2 current courts will serve 6 courts for players of increasingly popular sport

Gladstone's Max Patterson Park is getting geared up for a renovation of its crumbling tennis courts that will feature six pickleball courts when freshly resurfaced.

PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Getting ready for the renovation of tennis courts in Gladstone are, from left, Teena Hall, Bill and Lisa Preble, and Tom Widden.Renovation is expected to take place later this spring, when volunteers hope to find a dry day to wash out all the moss growing between cracks in the Max Patterson tennis court. Then they'll apply a special type of surfacing material provided by Metro Paint, which recycles citizen-donated paints in darker colors that are more difficult to reuse elsewhere. With pickleball scheduled from playing times between 9 a.m. and noon every day except Sundays, the city will still maintain the tennis courts for dual enjoyment by all citizens. 

Gladstone will be contributing approximately $3,500 in materials for the project that's estimated to cost more than $20,000 if the city wasn't getting the volunteer labor and donated materials from the USA Pickleball Association.

What's pickleball, you ask? For the uninitiated, it's a game using a slightly lowered tennis net and combining game elements from badminton, pingpong and squash. The sport uses lighter balls and racquets on half-size tennis courts and has grown increasingly popular in recent years, SUBMITTED PHOTO - Pickleball USA Association members have been renovating thousands of tennis courts across the country, including this one in Oregon City's Hillendale Park.especially as an alternative to tennis for seniors with lower mobility.

Why is it called pickleball? Well, there's the apocryphal version of this story and the real one, according to Tom Widden, USA Pickleball Northwest District ambassador. Widden says many people like to tell the made-up story of the sport's inventor's dog, Pickles.

The true origin of the name is more complicated. Widden says that former Washington state Congressman Joel Pritchard's wife, Joan, started calling the game pickleball, which they invented with friends in the 1960s, because as she is reported to have said, "the combination of different sports reminded me of the 'pickle boat' in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats."

In March, Gladstone City Council approved an agreement between the city and the Gladstone Pickleball Club, allowing for designated playing times and a secure locker on site to store the equipment. Widden extended a "big thank you" to Public Works Director Jim Whynot, City Administrator Jacque Betz and Mayor Tammy Stempel for all their hard work in making the partnership possible.

"This is an excellent example of a community partnership to enhance amenities at Max Patterson Park and establish a Pickleball Club in Gladstone," Betz said.

With their widening cracks, Max Patterson courts are practically unplayable now, so Oak Grove resident and local senior fitness trainer Teena Hall had long been eying them for renovation. She says that pickleball has a simple learning curve and has been enjoyed by players of all ages.

Hall is an avid pickleball player whose classes are often seen in Clackamas Community College's course catalog where you can sign up for her classes at Rose Villa and the Milwaukie Center. She said that the city has been "gracious" in allowing USA Pickleball to set up courts in Gladstone.

Widden said USA Pickleball has successfully reclaimed thousands of abandoned tennis courts PHOTO BY: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Pickleball can still be played, if not easily, using higher nets on the currently crumbling tennis courts at Max Patterson Park in Gladstone.and basketball courts, including Hillendale Park in Oregon City in 2015 as the first public pickleball courts east of the Willamette River in the Portland area.

Tennis courts were typically erected during the early 1950s with the surge of the park construction done for the returning vets starting up families. Several generations of once-avid tennis players have passed into retirement age now, and interest in general for golf and tennis is in steep decline.

"Municipalities are loathe to spend money on unused facilities, so courts go neglected and fall into disrepair," Widden said. "But pickleball is now the sport of choice for Baby Boomers/retirees and is quoted by U.S. Sports Federation as one of the fastest-growing sports in USA."

At Hillendale Park it is common to have 30-50 people turn out for a three-hour session on a sunny day.

Using the special low-cost court resurfacer with Metro Paint, Widden will employ trained volunteers from the NW Pickleball Veterans workforce to accomplish the Gladstone project. A Vietnam-era veteran of the U.S. Coast Guard himself, Widden says that the veterans' camaraderie in completing these types of projects locally honors the legacy of their service and dedication to our communities.

"A sense of brotherhood with these veterans brings back memories of their service days in earlier times, and many local merchants are enthused about assisting with these civic projects," Widden said.

From 9 a.m. to noon on Friday, April 20, you can join the pickleball club at the LDS Church in Gladstone, where they will set up three courts for playing the sport. For more information about the club, visit facebook.com/GladstonePickleball.

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