Pickleball: The Big Sport on Campus

Pickleball is the hottest sport on campus, and USA Pickleball is strongly considering a collegiate category when it hosts its National Championships in Dallas this November.

All that growth has trickled down to a demand for more courts at the college level, and in some cases, even in high schools. Members of the American Sports Builders Association, the professional organization for design professionals, contractors, and materials suppliers, are on the frontline and have seen firsthand the demand. As a result, they have some advice for institutions.


Be Ready for the Popularity of the Sport: Contractors nationwide caution coaches and athletic directors against thinking that adding some blended lines on an existing hard court or lining an out-of-the-way space and adding pop-up nets will suffice. In most cases, it will not. Worse, when lines are added to existing courts, it can lead to friction between the various player populations over who has the right to play, and when.

“We are being asked to provide more quotes for building separate courts or doing conversions of an existing facility to a pickleball court,” says Justan Vaughan of St. Louis-based McConnell & Associates. “The pickleball community is continuing to grow and athletes would rather play on standalone courts.”

Additionally, he notes, do not underestimate the popularity of pickleball. “The most common comment I get is, “We should have built more courts.” If someone builds two courts, they actually need four; if they build four courts, they discover they should have built eight.”

Location is Key: Whenever possible, say contractors, pickleball courts should be separated from tennis courts. They can share common amenities such as a clubhouse, concessions, restrooms, etc. but it will be necessary to have a buffer zone for noise control, as well as the understanding that for the most part, the athletes are different people.

Resources are in Place: USA Pickleball has a full listing of Pickleball Ambassadors, who can work with colleges (and high schools, as well as clubs) to determine the number of courts needed, how many courts are already in the area, and what kind of programming is reasonable. From there, it is possible to plan for court numbers, parking needs, lighting, shade structures, and other amenities.


And just a quick word about those amenities: All too often, pickleball courts are added without thought of the burden they will add to existing parking facilities, or without putting in lighting or fencing. All athletic facilities should not simply conform to regulations but should be safe and easy to use, as well as easy to access (even at night).

Get Professional Assistance: Talk with an experienced court builder prior to making any arrangements or signing off on any plans. Full information on court dimensions, fencing, and clearances, as well as other important data, can be found in the ASBA’s publication, Pickleball Courts: Construction & Maintenance Manual.

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