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Pickleball courts popping up throughout Jackson County

Dedicated pickleball courts will soon be available in Medford, and Ashland is looking at adding more of its own.

The city of Medford will celebrate the opening of Village Center Park on Sunday, Oct. 27, where pickleball players have been sharing time with tennis players on courts that are striped for both games.

Another dedicated pickleball facility should be built sometime in the next 21 months when the city of Ashland adds up to eight courts, possibly at its Oak Knoll Golf Course.

“They have more than demonstrated the demand for pickleball,” Rich Rosenthal, Medford parks and recreation director, said of players who use Medford courts. “It makes a whole lot of sense that pickleball is popular among many age groups.”

Pickleball is a racket sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Players use solid paddles made of composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball over a net.

Village Center Park is located on Shamrock Street east of N. Phoenix Road. Dedication ceremonies will begin at noon, and the Southern Oregon Pickleball Association will be on hand to give demonstrations and lessons. Besides pickleball courts, the 3.2-acre park includes a half-court basketball surface, playgrounds, walking paths, a picnic shelter, restrooms and a large lawn area.

A year ago some neighbors adjacent to the park expressed concerns about noise and traffic generated by the presence of pickleball courts, but that has subsided, said Rosenthal.

“I think it is an ungrounded fear. A few people have mentioned they are concerned about noise,” said Rosenthal. “I’ve received multiple times more feedback from people who are eager to have the opportunity at the location.”

Other valley jurisdictions are increasing opportunities for pickleball players. Jacksonville recently had SOPA paint two more courts on the tennis courts at Pheasant Meadow Park, bringing its total to four. Four pickleball courts can be created on one doubles tennis court.

Indoor pickleball court numbers at Medford’s Santo Center will increase from four to six within the next month when permanent lines are painted on the gym’s flooring to replace the current taped pickleball courts. Santo Center offers drop-in session three days per week with a $2 fee.

“I would walk into the gym just to take a break. There would be 20 people waiting,” said Rosenthal. Almost 4,000 participants payed the fee to play at Santo last year.

Medford also has eight courts at Fichtner-Mainwaring Park and two at Holmes Park, which recently received an overlay. Next year the city will include pickleball courts in a park built as part of redevelopment of the former Cedar Links Golf Course property.

Last year the city of Medford and Medford School District painted single pickleball courts on the 10 tennis courts at North Medford High School when they were resurfaced. The two entities went in together on the project, as half of the courts are on city land and half on school district land.

“It just saved both of us a lot of money having them done at the same time,” said Rosenthal.

SOPA has focused on education and court work recently, but the goal to establish an indoor facility that it started with in 2017 still remains, said President Jack Methot.

Besides painting Jacksonville courts, the group also repainted lines at six courts in Ashland’s Lithia Park. The group recently consulted with Eagle Point on establishing courts there.

SOPA is also in discussion with the Veterans Administration Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center & Clinics in White City to clean and paint courts on the tennis court there and to offer instruction and supply nets, paddles and balls.

Over the past year, SOPA members have given instruction to students at Talent Middle School, Ashland YMCA during summer, and several classes in Southern Oregon University’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. The group also holds tournaments.

Up to eight dedicated courts in Ashland, possibly with lighting, are included in the current two-year Parks Department budget that runs through June 2021. Potential sites are under review, said Rachel Dial, department recreation superintendent, who indicated Oak Knoll Golf Course is a likely location.

“It will be good for both the pickleball community and for Oak Knoll,” said Parks Commissioner Joel Heller. The time frame is not yet clear, but the courts might be built during 2020 near the driving range, he said.

A phased project at Ashland Creek Park may see creation of a multi-use area that would include striping for pickleball courts, Dial said.

A large indoor event and recreation center is part of a $60 million proposal that includes aquatic facilities now under investigation by the city of Medford. The facility, as proposed, could accommodate up to 48 pickleball courts for large tournaments, Rosenthal said.

“A lot of us pickleballers are pretty excited about the indoor event centers that Medford is looking at,” said Heller. “We would finally have an indoor facility moving forward.”

Information about local pickleball activities and SOPA is available at sopickle.com.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

file photo Melissa Traynor, left, and Laura Phillips are among some Shamrock Road residents concerned over the proposed addition of pickleball courts to their East Medford neighborhood park.