Pickleball is blowing up in Chilliwack.
That was the key message from Mark Hutchinson, spokesperson for the Chilliwack Pickleball Club, presenting at city hall on Nov. 19 with president Ken Witt to request upgrading of facilities at the Leisure Landing Sports Centre.
Pickleball has become one of the fastest growing sports across North America, and Chilliwack has become a hotspot, not just for seniors but across all age demographics.
“It started out as an older person’s sport,” Hutchinson told council, but a growing number of younger players are seeing the advantages of the game and hitting the courts.
The local club had about 60 members a few years ago. Now it has 224.
“We are showing growth of 71 per cent, and that’s tremendous, it really is,” Hutchinson said.
Improving facilities for the pickleballers would help make Chilliwack a provincial hotspot and grow the sport locally since there are more indoor courts here than anywhere else in B.C.
The fun and exciting sport of pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping pong, and can be played indoors or out, but in rainy B.C. the indoor courts are important.
“We want to make sure we can encourage this sport for younger people to play at all times,” Hutchinson said, referring to shift workers and those who may only be able to play at certain times like weekends.
The Landing has 14 indoor courts, which is the most anywhere in B.C. under one roof, he said, so pickleball enthusiasts can play year-round Monday to Friday, but they now want more, since the club has exploded since it moved in 2017 from Evergreen Hall to the Landing.
Local club members are “really keen” to work with mayor and council to continue to develop facilities in Chilliwack, since Saturdays are “problematic” at the Landing Sports Centre, Hutchinson said.
“We keep getting bumped on Saturdays for various reasons.”
A few years ago there was only one place in Chilliwack to play, but there are now seven.
The goal is bringing a professional on-board in Chilliwack to grow the sport. That’s part of the vision to be able to play year-round, with summer clubs, and to host tournaments.
“To do that, we want a really good facility. We want to partner with the city to improve the current facility we have,” he said in his presentation. “We think it will take club to the next level. We are developing programs for all ages to make sure we can offer play at all times.”
In 2019 there were 41 tournaments across B.C. alone. Three of those were hosted at the Landing in Chilliwack.
“Let’s make Chilliwack, or even B.C. a great centre for pickleball,” Hutchinson.
“There is no reason why we can’t be offering the national championships here in Chilliwack. We have the best facility at the moment in B.C. so let’s work to improve it a little more.”
Mayor Ken Popove waited until the end to share a “secret” with the members of the pickleball club: In in recent budget talks at city hall, council discussed moving ahead more quickly than originally scheduled on plans to build an indoor tennis facility, which would make more room for the pickleball club and other users of the Landing Sports Centre.
See more about pickleball at www.chillpb.com and stay tuned for news.