New Monroeville Community Park pickleball courts getting active use
A group of people gathered on a recent hot, summer day at the newly paved courts in Monroeville Community Park clad in tennis shoes, headbands and athletic shorts.
But they weren’t playing tennis or basketball. Instead, the group of mostly retired seniors split into teams of two to play pickleball, which is best described as oversized ping pong or miniature tennis.
“I cried when I saw the courts,” said Theresa Lugar, 68, of Trafford.
The Monroeville Recreation and Parks Department built the courts after being approached by the group around two years ago. They were completed in June.
Lugar said the department did a great job with the six courts and was overjoyed that the group now has an outdoor court that isn’t as far away as Cranberry Township – or Florida.
The sport, invented by three Washington men in the 1960s, is growing. According to a 2018 report by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, pickleball currently has 3.1 million players nationally, which is an increase of 12% over 2017.
Estok said the six outdoor and designated pickleball courts at Monroeville Community Park are the only ones in the area. The closest outdoor public courts are located in Cranberry Township, he said.
To play elsewhere, one must play inside a gym or at several other outdoor courts that may or may not have lines painted.
Pickleball is played with a plastic ball with holes in it and a small paddle. The court – which can be adapted from a tennis court – is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long.
Only the server can score, and the ball must bounce once on the serve before a player is allowed to hit it in the air, and players must avoid hitting the ball from inside the non-volley “kitchen” zone (7 feet from the net).
The courts are part of the department’s rehabilitation of former tennis and basketball courts that got water damage a few years ago. The municipality secured a $130,000 county grant from the Community Infrastructure and Tourism Fund.
Lugar said the group approached the parks department about installing pickleball courts when the municipality first decided to repair the courts.
“When we saw the popularity in the sport, we figured why not give it a shot? So we converted two tennis courts to make the six (pickleball courts),” he said, adding there are now two tennis courts, a basketball court and an all-purpose court, along with the pickleball courts.
Lugar is one of around 70 people from the Pittsburgh area that gather regularly to play the relatively new sport that is growing in popularity in schools and could become an Olympic sport soon. She said the Pittsburgh East Pickleball group – now known as the Pittsburgh Monroeville Pickleball group – formed around six years ago as a way for seniors to get out to exercise and socialize.
“We used to meet at the Penn Hills YMCA and we’ve gone to different places all over,” she said, listing places like the Plum and Wilmerding YMCAs, churches and senior centers.
She said she joined the group to help cope with her husband’s death.
“This took me out of depression,” Lugar said as her peers volleyed the light-weight balls that resemble Wiffle balls. She looked out at those playing. “This isn’t just a bunch of people playing pickleball. We’re close friends. It’s like family.”
Joe Pricener, a retired Monroeville police officer, agreed – and he said the group always has room for more people.
“This sport, anyone can play it, but it’s great for seniors. I have two knee replacements and I have to get new hips, too,” he said. The 71-year-old said he couldn’t keep playing senior softball.
“This was something I could still play. And it’s year-round. When it’s cold outside, we play inside,” he said.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, [email protected] or via Twitter .