Wellesley’s options for playing the increasingly popular game of pickleball keep growing, and the Sprague Field tennis courts could be the next available spot.
Pickleball—played on a badminton-sized court with lower and narrower nets than for tennis and with paddles and perforated plastic balls—is now enjoyed by 4.2 million people across the United States, according to USA Pickleball. You might even come across professional pickleball tournaments on TV these days. The average age of regular players is 50-plus, though the average age of casual players is in the mid-30s.
In Wellesley, pickleball play started indoors, with games at Boston Sports Club and the Recreation Department’s Warren Center building.
Outdoor play first became available in 2019 on one of the Schofield Elementary School tennis courts. The town’s Rec Department put a temporary pickleball net on that court, and it gets regular use. That court could be re-lined to support two courts down the road.
Wellesley Rec Director Matt Chin says that the Schofield court has worked out well, but that there’s more demand. His office gets at least a few calls or emails a week about pickleball options in town. The town hopes to start offering pickleball again at the Rec Center in June, and expanding its previous day hours to night to help meet demand for drop-in and pre-registered play.
Recreation Commission Chair Paul Cramer appeared before the School Committee last week (3-hour, 14-minute mark of Wellesley Media recording) to request permission to put pickleball lines on the courts at Sprague Field behind Wellesley Middle School. Cramer described pickleball as “expanded ping pong,” or “shrunk tennis.”
The request is to line two of the four Sprague courts with two pickleball courts apiece. Players would bring their own portable nets.
One player we spoke to was excited about the prospect of courts at Sprague, and predicted they’d be crowded.
It remains to be seen how the courts would be reserved. As School Committee member—and tennis player—Catherine Mirick pointed out, it can already be tough to reserve tennis courts, so this could make that more challenging by adding another use for the space. The School Committee will look to vote on the proposal in a couple of weeks.
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Cramer said the Hunnewell Field tennis courts could also be interesting for pickleball since they have lights, but nothing formal has been announced about plans there.
Separately, pickleball is on its way to Perrin Park, off of Thomas Road by way of Weston Road. “Improvements at Perrin, including a resurfaced court, new basketball backboards and hoops, and addition of pickleball lines and a mobile net have begun,” says Wellesley Natural Resources Commission Director Brandon Schmitt. The Community Preservation Committee has funded the project and work should be completed soon, perhaps within the next month, he says.
Update (Sept. 3, 2021): Schmitt said the Perrin Park court and net would likely be available in mid-September.
The Natural Resources Commission also completed a feasibility study for the tennis courts tucked away in the woods behind Kelly Field near the Bates Elementary School in 2017, and based on public feedback at the time, no plans for redoing those courts was made. However, someone has painted pickleball lines on one of the courts. “While the NRC is always open to well-developed suggestions, there are no plans for those courts at this time,” Schmitt said.
Nearby, another outdoor pickleball location is Connor Heffler Park in Natick at the intersection of Oak Street and Rte. 9 west.