Published: 6/26/2022 1:45:40 PM
Modified: 6/26/2022 1:45:11 PM
CONWAY — With a few thousand dollars left to spend before the end of the fiscal year next week, the Conway Parks, Recreation and Trails Committee is adding another sport for residents to play.
In a matter of weeks, pickleball, the trendy and fast-growing sport, will be available on the town basketball courts for players new and seasoned. The committee had approximately $3,000 to spend before the end of the fiscal year and the purchase of locks, a storage bench, floor tape, paint, paddles and nets rounded out to $967.89.
Resident Janice Warner brought the idea to the committee after getting into the sport with her mom in Hatfield.
“My mother plays and my mother’s in her 70s, so people of all ages can play,” Warner said. “It’s so much fun, I think everyone should get to play.”
Pickleball is a combination of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. Played on a court measuring 20-by-44 feet, it’s a more accessible version of tennis, where rackets and tennis balls are swapped out for a paddle and a ball similar to a wiffle ball and a lower 36-inch net. The lowered bar for accessibility allows people of all ages and skills to participate, but there is plenty of opportunity for high-speed, competitive play.
“It allows people of all ages and all skill levels to get out there,” Warner said. “You don’t have to be a super athlete.”
To start the program, the committee will set up a temporary pickleball court on the town’s basketball courts downtown — one hoop will still be available for basketball. Residents will be able to borrow paddles, balls and nets, which will be in a locked storage bench with a combination that can be acquired from Warner. From there, the committee will gauge interest in the sport and may look into an indoor court somewhere in town for the winter and rainy days.
The committee is also looking into working with a phone app to set up scheduling if residents show interest in playing the sport. Member Michael Merritt said investing in the sport is a low-risk, high-reward move that could bring more people to the town’s ball fields. And if the sport doesn’t generate interest, it’s not a huge loss.
“I think this is a smart idea and I really appreciate all the work you put in,” Merritt said to Warner. “Best-case scenario is word gets out that it’s so fun.”
In adding pickleball to the town’s recreational opportunities, Conway joins a growing list of Pioneer Valley towns embracing the sport. Residents in South Hadley crowdfunded the construction of a court at Buttery Brook Park, Southampton recently held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Conant Park for new courts and Nonotuck Park in Easthampton has experienced a steady flow of pickleballers since its courts opened in April.
The Parks, Recreation and Trails Committee will put out a notice on the town website when the courts are ready for use. The committee is also looking for new volunteers to staff the five-person board. Interested residents can contact Town Administrator Veronique Blanchard (email@example.com).
“I am thrilled that Conway is going to enter the pickleball arena,” Merritt said to close the meeting.
Chris Larabee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-930-4081.