The Pioneer Park Pickleball Group (PPPG) placed a banner at the corner of Kemp Street and Oneida Avenue in Rhinelander Thursday announcing its intention to raise funds to build pickleball courts on the site of the old tennis courts at Pioneer Park.
To make it happen, the group must raise $50,000 between now and next summer.
Maureen O'Melia is acting as the spokesperson for the group working to convert the former tennis courts to pickleball courts.
For the uninitiated, pickleball is a paddleball sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis.
Two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated ball over a net.
"We are very excited to make this banner presentation today to kick off the fundraising, the real fun part of this project," O'Melia said. "We're excited for the pickleball community and Pioneer Park friends and family that this unused surface can be brought back and used again."
In June, the Rhinelander City Council authorized the placement of pickleball courts in the now vacant space, however the $72,000 or so needed to build the courts must come entirely from public and corporate donations, O'Melia explained during the kickoff ceremony.
"(We need) at least $50,000 more, we're at about $22,000 right now," O'Melia said.
The number of courts built depends on the generosity of the donors, she added.
"Depending on the monies that come in, eight would be great," O'Melia said. "Six would be nice, also."
Depending on when the group reaches its fundraising goal, O'Melia said PPPG anticipates the courts being built in 2020.
"As soon as asphalt can be laid in the summer," she said. "And there is a cure process before the painting can be done. So, hopefully, mid-July. But we'll have to have the monies, but it's looking strong."
O'Melia said the design the group is using, be it six or eight courts, will fit into the exposed space. No trees will have to be brought down, she added.
The $22,000 in donations already collected has come from a mixture of sources, she added.
"We've had some corporate sponsorships or donations, that's been wonderful, and many individual donations," O'Melia said. "But we're definitely looking for more to help us."
Pickleball is exploding in popularity nationwide. O'Melia said there are about 100 people who play the sport in Rhinelander.
"Pickleball is the fastest growing sport today," she said. "You'll see tennis courts in many communities taken over by the pickleball friends. It's what's happening now, it's a fun sport."
"A lot of tennis players are converting over from tennis to pickleball, it's a little bit easier on the older joints that some of us have and the body parts that don't always work," said PPPG member Joe Smoger. "It's a fun game, and people come out for the social aspect of it much more than some of the other sports."
O'Melia added that out of town visitors who partake of the sport will see the banner, and later the courts, and know they can play locally.
Information on how to donate and other information about the group can be found on. their website at rhinelanderpickleball.net.
Jamie Taylor may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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