Pickleball draws heated discussion

More than a dozen Wilton High School tennis players packed the Board of Selectmen meeting at town hall Nov. 20 to make it clear they don’t want pickleball lines painted onto their newly refurbished tennis courts.

“It confuses the players, they’re not sure of the lines,” one opponent said, explaining that the pickleball lines interfere with the tennis lines and create a visual hodgepodge.

Pickleball, a combination of badminton, tennis and Ping-Pong played on a court the size of a badminton court with a net similar to a tennis net but not as wide and with a large paddle and a Wiffle ball served underhand, has been growing in popularity over the past several years in Wilton, so much so that there is a pickleball court included at the basketball court at the Comstock Community Center.

“Pickleball is a lot of fun. Some top athletes are playing this game,” said proponent Leslie Murphy at the meeting.

However, the tennis-playing community does not want pickleball courts blended with the tennis courts, at Wilton High School or anywhere else, so the Board of Selectmen was asked to find a solution fair to both tennis enthusiasts and pickleball players.

“We’re not opposed to pickleball, but the bond the town got was to pay for the tennis courts,” said Larry Tucker, a tennis proponent.

The solution, according to a vote of the selectmen made that night following a report from the Parks and Recreation Department, is to paint pickleball lines on the upper parking lot of Middlebrook School, and to search for another town location for a dedicated pickleball court.

Also, the selectmen indicated they want the pickleball community to raise funds for the court that would be built on town land, the same way the football community raised funds for organic turf. The parks director said it could cost about $80,000 to build a dedicated pickleball court.

That’s too much money, said one of the pickleball enthusiasts in the standing-room crowd of about 40 people.

The pickleball community could probably raise $1,500, she said, but $80,000 would be too far a stretch.

The Parks and Recreation Department has to gather the pickleball court site planning information in time for the budget season next February.