ATHENS, Ala. (WHNT) — The growing Pickleball community in Athens is ‘over the moon’ about new Pickleball courts.
On Tuesday, the Athens-Limestone Chamber of Commerce and the Athens Alabama Pickleball Association cut the ribbon on six new pickleball courts and one new tennis court at Big Spring Memorial Park.
In June of 2022, the Athens City Council approved a budget of $200,000 for the resurfacing of three tennis courts at the park. At the time, Mayor Ronnie Marks told News 19 that the aging tennis courts would need some TLC either way because they had cracks in the surface.
He said converting them into pickleball courts was a better move, because of the growing community of pickleball players in Athens.
Flash forward to Thursday, and it’s obvious that the six new pickleball courts will be heavily used. The ribbon-cutting ceremony started at 10:00 a.m., but many players had been out playing since 7:00 a.m.
Jennifer Bridges, the Vice President of the Athens Alabama Pickleball Association told News 19 that many players have to make themselves stop playing, otherwise, they’d be there all day!
“We have over 300 members who are avid players,” Bridges said. “We have a crew that plays in the morning, noon and in the evening, and we have such a high demand [for courts].”
“So, we were ecstatic to have these courts launched,” she said.
In addition to playing at the new courts at Big Spring Memorial Park, Bridges said there are other courts around town, including at the Sportsplex, that many people use. She said the group is very active and participates in local and out-of-state tournaments.
Bridges said pickleball is a great way for anyone of any age to get out and make some friends and get exercise.
Bridges said if anyone is interested in learning the game, they should just show up at a court. She said the community is very welcoming and loves teaching new people the sport they have grown to love.
The six new courts filled the space of two of the old tennis courts. However, there is a bit of good news for tennis fanatics: there is also a newly resurfaced tennis court.
While $200,000 was approved for improvements at the park, Parks & Recreation Director, Bert Bradford, told News 19 that so far, the project is under budget.
So far, Bradford said he’s spent $54,600 on the new court surfacing. However, he said new lighting is on backorder, and he also has plans for a new seating structure to allow groups who are waiting to play an area to sit.
The courts are free and open to the public on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Athens is not alone in joining in on the pickleball craze. Decatur has plans to spend upwards of $2 million on new courts at Point Mallard.
The City of Madison also recently cut the ribbon on new pickleball courts in the Town Madison District.