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Pelham Tennis Association: ready for pickleball all year long

PELHAM – January 2, 2018 – Elaine Somerville and her teammates over at the Pelham Tennis Association won’t be making the drive out of town for pickleball much longer over the winter months. With the opening of the new Pelham Community Centre she, and others will be able to play the rapidly growing sport at home in Pelham.

Elaine Somerville has been playing tennis for close to 50 years, until recently, when the focus has shifted dramatically in a new direction. “Pickleball has taken over,” said the president of the Pelham Tennis Association, who, along with the associations roughly 50 members, is anxiously awaiting the opening of the new Pelham Community Centre in east Fonthill.

“We have nothing through the wintertime,” she said, explaining while the association can run tennis and pickleball through the warmer months outside at Centennial Park in Fenwick, come winter there is nowhere in town to play. So Somerville and the roughly 20 members who enjoy pickleball are forced to head out of town to play. On Wednesdays you will find her playing down at Haig Bowl in St. Catharines where six courts are set up in the arena and welcome players from across the region.

Pickleball, which first got its start in senior centres south of the border in the mid-1960s, has exploded in recent years. In 2016 just over 700 players showed up for the national championships, and in 2017 that event drew closer to 1,300. “In the last five years it has really exploded,” said Somerville, explaining the sport is a mix of tennis, badminton and table tennis. The sport is played with oversized Ping-Pong paddles and a wiffle ball on a court somewhat similar to that of tennis. The nature of the ball means the slow lobs of badminton, fast slams of tennis, and spin shots of Ping-Pong all have their place on the court.

“It’s easy to learn so anybody can pick it up and play,” she said, noting the club routinely sees three generations from the same family all on the court enjoying some competition. “It’s so much fun! Everyone is smiling and it’s a very social sport,” she said, adding that while recreational in nature, the more competitive side of the sport is also drawing a younger crowd of players who have been redefining the nature of the sport.

With so much interest in the unique sport, the new Community Centre will be a welcome addition to the town according to Somerville. As tennis association members of all ages pick up the sport the demand is there for Pelham’s players to have a place to play during the winter. On top of that, the venue and association will certainly welcome players from out of town, drawing visitors to Pelham. On a typical Wednesday down at Haig Bowl, she said there are players from as far as Fort Erie.

“You’re not going to get people just from Pelham,” she said, pointing out with the facility’s central location in Niagara, it will become in high demand for a variety of sports. “It will also bring in people who might not normally be active,” she said, adding that as young families start their lives in Pelham, they will need a place to play – be it hockey, basketball or pickleball.

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