If you enjoy spending time in the kitchen, you won’t like pickleball, a tennis-like sport that’s a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, because the “kitchen”, whose official name is the non-volley zone, is the area of the court that’s off limits to players.
For first-timers, professional players and everyone in between, pickleball is a fun and accessible sport promoting health and wellness and social and community building. A fun, light-on-your feet game, pickleball is more social and strategic than other low-impact activities so it’s the perfect way to simultaneously strengthen the body and mind. Residents can try their hand at the sport on one of eight indoor courts at the Sadye Gibbs Martin Community Center for free Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – noon.
Recreation supervisor Trey Phillips had never heard about or played the sport until he took the job at the community center but now he’s a fan of the sport and hopes interest in the sport will continue to grow. “I hope that one day we’ll be able to host tournaments here,” he said.
Phillips may be new to the world of pickleball, but Plant City resident George Banning has been playing for ten years. The 70-year-old was introduced to the sport at the YMCA. “It’s a great way to stay in shape and it’s a very social sport, we sometimes go out to lunch together afterward,” said Banning.
Plant City will one day add outdoor pickleball courts as an option for residents.
Plant City Parks and Recreation director Julie Garretson said outdoor pickleball courts will soon be a reality in Plant City. Thanks to a $1.9 million budget (with $1.5 million coming from the federal governoment’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds) Rowena Mays Park, located at at the northeast corner of West Baker Street and North Alexander Street, will be renamed Rowena Mays Athletic Park.
Currently the park features lots of open space, picnic tables, two tennis courts and two basketball courts. When the project is completed, the new park will feature two lighted tennis courts, eight lighted pickleball courts, a pickleball practice wall for warming up, two lighted basketball courts, benches along the sidewalk, large restrooms, picnic tables and ample parking. The park will be open every day from sunrise to 10 p.m.
“Our goal is to make better use of the current space and offer more amenities,” said Garretson. “It’ll be a very state-of-the-art updated pickleball facility.”
While an estimated completion date is not yet available, a more accurate timeline will be released in early 2023.
Garretson thinks there are many reasons to love pickleball, a sport that stretches across all age demographics and socioeconomic levels. “It’s a sport that plays on a court that’s smaller than a tennis court so it’s less intimidating,” she said. “Anyone can pick up a paddle and learn to play because the rules are pretty easy to understand.”
The fact that it’s free to play is also easy on the wallet.
For more information about pickleball at the Sadye Gibbs Martin Community Center visit www.plantcitygov.com or call 813-659-4253.