Pickleball gains popularity in Carlsbad

Pickleball gains popularity in Carlsbad
Nationally ranked pickleballer Alex Hamner hopes the two tennis courts at Laguna Riviera City Park will be converted into eight pickleball courts. Photo by Ellen Wright

CARLSBAD — What started as a niche sport largely played in RV parks, is spreading throughout America and one resident is hoping Carlsbad will jump on the bandwagon.

Alex Hamner has been playing pickleball for five years and has won four gold medals in women’s doubles at the Pickleball National Tournament.

She was introduced to the sport by her tennis partner, Jennifer Lucore. Lucore’s parents picked it up in an RV park and competed in the first national pickleball championship.

According to Hamner, the sport was invented on Bainbridge Island, Wash., which is just a short ferry ride away from Seattle, nearly 50 years ago. People from Washington took the sport with them during their summer RV trips and it caught on among retirees.

She said the sport is popular among retirees because the pace is a bit slower than tennis and there is less ground to cover.

“It’s an easier ball to hit,” Hamner said.  “It’s easier to be successful at sooner and because the court is so small, you’re much closer to your partner and your competitor.”

Hamner was once an avid tennis player but picked up pickleball and hasn’t looked back since. Just seven weeks after starting the sport, she and Lucore went to nationals.

They didn’t win medals in doubles but have taken the gold in women’s doubles four times since.

Aside from the medals, Hamner said she has a great time playing and meeting new people.

“Pickleball people are some of the greatest people out there,” Hamner said. “It must have to do with the name. If you’re willing to try it, you have a sense of humor.”

Her two sons, Chad and Troy, also took up the sport. Chad won gold in the Junior Men’s singles and Troy won bronze in 2014.

She said the sport is gaining popularity throughout the country. Next year will mark the sport’s 50th anniversary.

Hamner said it seems that new courts are popping up throughout the nation on a daily basis and it’s gaining traction locally too.

“You’d be surprised at how many people have pickleball courts in their backyards,” Hamner said. “It’s almost like a little secret sport.”

Since the court is smaller than a tennis court, she said, it’s easy to tack on to another backyard project, like the addition of a basketball court.

Hamner and Lucore play at the pickleball courts in Oceanside but they, along with other pickleballers in the area, are hoping to get courts in Carlsbad.

They’ve attended city council and Parks and Recreation Department meetings to raise awareness of the sport and to ask that pickleball courts be incorporated into the Master Plans of Pine Avenue, Poinsettia or Aviara community parks.

Commissioners on the Parks and Recreation board said there wasn’t a feasible option for courts at those parks but there is a possibility of converting the two tennis courts at Laguna Riviera City Park into pickleball courts.

The City Council will decide at a meeting Dec. 9.

If approved, the tennis courts will be converted in April according to Parks and Recreation Director Chris Hazeltine. He said the funds are already available.

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