Vienna Embraces Pickleball with New Courts

(Updated at 8:05 p.m.) The tennis courts at Glyndon Park, a wooded expanse separated from bustling Maple Avenue by a bend in the road, have a new look.

The cracks and other signs of age are gone, erased by the Town of Vienna’s resurfacing efforts, but perhaps the boldest change is the grid of yellow lines that reconfigures Glyndon Park’s two tennis courts into four pickleball courts.

Joined by members of the Vienna Pickleball Club and representatives from the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), the Town of Vienna hosted an opening ceremony for the new Glyndon tennis and pickleball courts on Oct. 27.

COVID-19 social distancing rules limited attendance at the ceremony to 24 players, but their enthusiasm for the new courts and the sport of pickleball was evident not just in the speeches and ribbon-cutting, but also the games that followed.

“In normal times, these four courts may support a community of 30, 40 people coming out to play pickleball together with enjoyment, satisfaction in exercise, the challenge of growing their skills, friendly competition, and a welcoming social community,” Vienna Pickleball Club founder Sally Unger said.

Unger first encountered pickleball, which loosely resembles tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, when looking for sports that she could play while traveling, something she regularly did in pre-COVID times to visit her children in Los Angeles and Chicago.

With rules that would be familiar to anyone who has played tennis and games that can be played in 20 minutes, pickleball has been gaining popularity nationwide since emerging in Washington state in 1965 as an improvised form of badminton.

However, because it is still relatively niche, facilities dedicated to pickleball are difficult to find.

When they learned that the Town of Vienna was planning to update the tennis courts at Glyndon Park, Unger and other local pickleball players saw an opportunity to advocate for their sport to be better incorporated into the renovated facility.

“We have a lot of residents in town who love to play pickleball,” Vienna Mayor Linda Colbert said. “…We want our citizens to be happy with our parks and keep them up in good shape. So, it was a need that they helped us identify.”

Led by Unger, who serves as USAPA’s Fairfax County ambassador, Vienna pickleball players started working with the town on the new courts in May, giving feedback on the court design and layout. The Vienna Pickleball Club paid for four pickleball nets that can be wheeled on and off the courts, tarps, cables, locks, and a leaf blower for cleaning the courts.

The Town of Vienna is providing storage facilities for the nets, and the courts have an electrical outlet so players can charge the leaf blower’s battery.

Colbert says athletic courts can take a while to renovate, but the Vienna Parks and Recreation Department worked to complete the project before winter arrived instead of waiting for spring.

“Right now, being inside playing pickleball is not safe because of COVID, so this is a much safer place to be able to play,” Colbert said.

While Fairfax County still does not have any dedicated pickleball facilities, Northern Virginia got its first indoor pickleball facility on Oct. 10 when Pickleballerz opened in Chantilly.

The Vienna Pickleball Club hopes that the Glyndon courts redesign will pave the way for more resources. Officially formed in June, the club boasts 147 members and has identified about 1,000 pickleball players in Fairfax County with an ongoing survey to collect data that will be presented to the county.

For now, the club will play at Glyndon Park on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons.

“We hope for a long-lasting partnership with the Town of Vienna as pickleball continues to grow and more players come out to play for us,” Unger said. “We hope for a mutually beneficial relationship that creates a win-win for all of us.”

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