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Pete Tagliarini swats a perfect return during a recent pickleball match.
Pete Tagliarini swats a perfect return during a recent pickleball match.

Pickleball popularity sweeps over Wheatfield

Fri, Feb 10th 2023 11:00 am

Recreation department considers expanding schedule to three days a week

Article and photo by Lawrence Kaznica

A combination of tennis, badminton and Ping-Pong, the nationwide affection with pickleball has not escaped the Town of Wheatfield’s Recreation Department.

Participation has boomed to 47 players two days a week.

“We are thinking about adding an additional day on either a Friday or a Monday, but we are going to check with the group. It’s like a huge community they goes place to place,” said Town of Wheatfield Recreation Supervisor Mike Ranalli. He explained the days of expansion would not likely interfere with other local leagues, specifically matches at St. James.

Requests to play are coming straight to the town clerk’s office on a weekly basis.

‘’We’ve just had four (inquiries since January,)” reported Wheatfield Town Clerk Kathy Harrington during a Jan. 23 Town Board meeting.

Want to know just how popular the pandemic-aided sport has become?

It has the endorsement of sports phenoms from Tom Brady to LeBron James, all the way to corporate sponsors including Anheuser-Busch.

“When you look at participation rates alongside golf, basketball and tennis, I don’t think anybody would have ever thought a year ago that pickleball would be right up there with these more traditional sports,” explained Tom Webb, chief marketing officer of the Association of Pickle Professionals.

Courts are springing up monthly in California and Florida. It is now the new norm as it is estimated that 14% of Americans played pickleball from August 2021 to 2022.

Studies indicate 36.5 million people across the country played last year, as professional games were frequently aired on NBC on Saturdays throughout the fall. The multigenerational sport has become infectious with seniors to millennials, according to local officials and enthusiasts across the country.

“Participation has doubled since last year; it is very informal,” Ranalli said.

Another huge reason for its nationwide popularity: cost. A quality racket can be purchased for $60 at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Rackets and balls are provided, as Wheatfield residents and others have to pay less than $5 for equipment on a weekly basis.

The Town of Wheatfield Recreation Department offers games from 10 a.m. to noon, Tuesdays and Thursdays at the youth recreation building on the Town Hall campus, 2795 Church Road (at the rear of the site).

Played on a pseudo tennis court measuring 20-feet-wide by 44-feet-wide (lines inclusive), the ball resembles a hollower/noisier-pong-version of a Wiffle Ball. An average sized pickleball court is approximately one-fourth of that of a tennis court.

The back-and-forth nature of the match goes from over-hand slams to “dinks” almost in a slow motion, but mimicking an extremely coordinated version of professional tennis. That’s because an average pickle ball has 26 to 40 holes internally that make the game more forgiving, but faster than tennis, initially according to the average observer.

For more information, contact the recreation department at 716-694-6440, option five, Ext. 6.

The Town of Wheatfield Recreation Department’s pickup pickleball games played on Tuesday and Thursday morning have surged in popularity. The pickleball squad is shown.

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