When advocating for more pickleball opportunities in Dawson County, Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne recently told the Board of Commissioners that the sport is “exploding” in popularity amongst local players.
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“We could build pickleball courts all over this county, and they would be full tonight,” Payne told the board during their Jan. 19 work session. “Literally, it is that popular.”
During their Jan. 19 voting session, the BOC unanimously approved funds not to exceed $98,000 to retrofit outdoor courts for both tennis and pickleball between the county’s Veterans Memorial and Rock Creek parks.
The money for the project will come from Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax VI overages after Parks and Rec completed other ball field renovations.
“We could build pickleball courts all over this county, and they would be full tonight. Literally, it is that popular.”Dawson County Parks and Recreation Director Matt Payne
It’s been over three years since pickleball made its debut at Rock Creek Park, according to DCN’s reporting from March 2019.
Similar to tennis, people can play pickleball as either singles or doubles. Matches take place on a badminton-size court, with players using a paddle twice the size of a ping pong one and a ball very similar to a wiffle ball, DCN’s earlier article stated.
One of Rock Creek Park’s biggest weekly events is its indoor Wednesday pickleball nights. Attendee Scott Parks has been playing pickleball for about a year, along with his wife and two adult children, he said during the Jan. 25 gathering.
“It’s about the only sport you’ll play that isn’t age or gender-specific,” Parks said. “It's a minimal investment to play. It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to play it because it’s on a badminton court, so a person that doesn’t move as well doesn’t have to cover as much area.”
That said, Parks joked that it’s not unusual to see older players outrun younger participants. Plus, pickleball has the added benefit for his family of allowing them to come from different area counties to spend time together.
Susan McBerry has become an advocate for pickleball in Dawson County in the almost three years since she started playing the sport.
“It’s as much social as it is anything [else],” McBerry said of the sport. “Other than my doctor, I didn’t know a single person here until I started playing, and now, my whole friend group is people that either play here, in Dahlonega or in northern Hall [County.]”
McBerry said there’s been a decent turnout for the beginner pickleball clinics, held on Sundays at Rock Creek Park.
“You can learn how to play in an hour in a clinic and then be playing [matches],” she added.
Rock Creek Park currently has three indoor pickleball courts and two outdoor ones, while Veterans Memorial Park has two indoor pickleball courts.
During his department’s budget hearing last fall, Payne said he would like to see “at least four of our [county’s] six” outdoor tennis courts resurfaced to include pickleball courts.
The renovations will entail adding pickleball-specific lines to the courts and providing additional nets and screening, Payne said on Jan. 19.
During the meeting, District 3 Commissioner Alexa Bruce asked Payne if there was currently a county recreational league for pickleball.
“No, but we could do one tonight if we had the place to do it,” Payne said, adding that his department “could do some small league tournaments” if the two outdoor courts at Veterans Memorial Park were made pickleball-only at some point.
Dawsonville officials are also looking into possible options for pickleball courts at the city’s Main Street Park, as BOC District 2 Commissioner Chris Gaines pointed out on Jan. 19.
Opportunities to play pickleball are offered throughout the week, according to updated flyers from Dawson County Parks and Rec.
Players can take part in indoor open-play pickleball matches Wednesday 6-9 p.m. and Sundays 5-9 p.m. at Rock Creek Park. Open play time is also offered there Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 9-11:30 a.m.
Rock Creek’s outdoor pickleball courts are available on a first-come, first-served basis during the park’s regular hours of Monday to Sunday, from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.
Monday night pickleball will resume at Veterans Memorial Park’s indoor courts in March.
To stay current with all things pickleball in Dawson County,
For updates about local play opportunities and any upcoming pickleball clinics, you can visit theParks and Rec web page or the Dawson County Pickleball Facebook group.