On a Friday evening in October, players fill the courts at Allegheny Commons with others waiting. Photo by Tracy Certo.

Big news for the growing legion of pickleball fans in the city: 10 new pickleball courts are planned for Washington’s Landing along with two (restored) tennis courts. Funding for the project was confirmed on Friday, Oct. 14, so “we’ll be able to bid the project and have everything lined up for the spring,” says Andrea Ketzel, senior landscape architect with the city’s Department of Public Works.

And more good news: The city just added courts to Bud Hammer Park in Hazelwood. “We resurfaced the basketball court and put two pickleball courts in a multi-court area,” says Ketzel. The new non-skid courts are ready for play and so are the indoor courts that were added at five city community centers with full gyms (see chart below).

“Indoor play has been expanded this year due to demand,” says Citiparks Director Kathryn Vargas. Most court time, which is free except at West Penn where there’s a $5 monthly fee, is available during the week due to staffing issues on weekends, but that could soon change for the better.

Requests for pickleball courts come up every time they have a project, says Ketzel, who currently has a list of 30-some capital projects.

The sport continues to explode in growth and demand across the country as more people try it and get hooked. (As WPXI-TV news anchor Susan Koeppen just posted on social media: “I’m addicted to pickleball. That is all.”)

“Pickleball is so popular,” says Vargas. “Any neighborhood (where) we can get courts will be a resource for people.”

There’s a possibility for pickleball courts at Arsenal Park, which has a number of tennis courts, Ketzel suggests. “I imagine once we get into the design process, we’re going to get some requests. It comes up. We can’t have enough pickleball courts.”

At the KABOOM! build (a community playground) just completed at West Penn Community Recreation Center in Polish Hill, they were asked to paint pickleball court lines on a basketball court so residents could get a feel for the sport. They did — even though there’s no net, Ketzel adds.

Schenley Park is another possibility, she says, where they can convert two tennis courts to pickleball courts. “There are already some courts that apparently people are fighting over,” notes Ketzel.

A community meeting initiated by City Councilperson Erika Strassburger will be scheduled soon to address the tension between the tennis community and the pickleball groups, notes Vargas who has sent her dog walker to Schenley to check out the activity level on the courts. The report: The pickleball courts were full and the tennis courts were not.

Part of the game’s inclusive appeal is group play. On a recent Friday evening, more than a dozen players shared two courts at Allegheny Commons on the North Side. When one typically short game ended, four players exited while four new players walked on. And online groups such as The Pittsburgh Pickle Club help players schedule time with each other — “Anyone pickling today?”– so singles don’t have to line up partners on their own.

Timeline for new courts

Right now, Washington’s Landing has five tennis courts in dire need of repair. They were scheduled for restoration until some residents — full disclosure, this WaLa writer among them — requested pickleball courts and, as noted in this NEXTpittsburgh article, Gamma Sports reps got together with City Councilperson Bobby Wilson and made their plea.

As a result, Ketzel held a community Zoom meeting and then launched a survey. The results were in favor of converting three tennis courts to 10 pickleball courts and keeping two remaining tennis courts. (See the results here)

The plan for courts on Washington’s Landing includes 10 pickleball courts and two tennis courts. Image courtesy of the City of Pittsburgh.

While the City of Pittsburgh has more than 100 tennis courts, there are only 14 outdoor pickleball courts counting the two new ones in Hazelwood (and not counting the painted court in Polish Hill).

The 10 courts on Washington’s Landing should make a big difference. As for the timeline, the temperature has to be right for repaving and the project will have to get in cue with contractors, says Ketzel. Since the city has only one fencing vendor, Allegheny Fence, “we’re at their mercy,” she adds. She estimates the $500,000 project will take three months to complete.

Current plans, shown above, call for perimeter fencing and fencing between the tennis and pickleball courts but no fencing in between courts. “We will add if we are able to afford it,” Ketzel notes.

While there are no plans for lighting — which is an additional $500,000 and not in the budget — if by chance some sports company or benevolent pickleball player wants to foot the bill, they can contact Bobby Wilson. (No pressure but here’s his email.)

Several years ago, before the pandemic when pickleball really caught fire, Northsider Jerrold Green led a group to get the first pickleball courts in the city. It took a long time, he says, but two were finally built at Allegheny Commons and they’re now a hot spot for players. (Note to city: these courts have lights but they’re not working.)

“You think you can’t get things done but you can,” says Donna Green, Jerry’s wife and a regular at Allegheny Commons. “You just keep pushing.”

Tracy is the founder and Editor at Large of NEXTpittsburgh which she started in March 2014 and sold in December 2020. She is passionate about making Pittsburgh a better place for all and connecting people to do the same.