Pickleball is the fastest growing recreational sport in America, and Los Banos is home to a passionate group of pickleball players who have been sharing their enthusiasm for the sport. Los Banos could be a leader in pickleball recreation in the Central Valley, if only it had the facilities.
Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, racquetball and table tennis and is played on a court the size of a badminton court. Players hit a plastic ball back and forth over a net.
Pickleball has had amazing growth in the U.S., and now has an estimated 3.2 million players. New places to play are being built in cities all around the U.S. to accommodate the growing interest. Pickleball provides fun, fitness, competition and friendship. When people are playing pickleball, they are laughing, exercising and socializing with others.
Pickleball was first introduced in Los Banos four years ago to a handful of players at the Los Banos Community Center. Interest spread, and now there are more than 60 people of all ages regularly playing the sport in our town. Currently there are two courts available for play at the Community Center on weekdays and three courts painted on the basketball pad at Cresthills Park on Pioneer Road.
When pickleball participants want to play at the park, we take our nets, balls, paddles, blowers, mops, towels, water, chairs etc. We work together to get the courts set up for play. It has been truly a grassroots effort for Los Banos pickleball players. These courts have been a great help to us because they have given people who work during the day the opportunity to play with us in the early evenings and on weekends when the Community Center is closed.
Pickleball is appropriate for people of all ages. This spring, we introduced pickleball to the students at San Luis High School. Members of our group painted two courts on the school’s basketball area, and I wrote a grant through the USA Pickleball Association to purchase nets and paddles for the students. We taught the students how to play the game, and they are now playing pickleball during P.E., at break time and at lunchtime every day.
Students at San Luis High School love playing pickleball! Unfortunately, the only playing opportunity these students have is during the day at school. We hope to introduce pickleball to the other high schools, and all new players will need places on a court to play.
Because of a lack of facilities, we are limited in further growing pickleball in our town at this time. If we had permanent courts, Los Banos could be a central magnet in the Valley for pickleball players. There would be opportunities to host tournaments like others being held all over the country. When a tournament is held, pickleball players come from all over. This brings additional revenue into the towns hosting the tournaments, with hotels and restaurants reaping the benefits.
Los Banos doesn’t have other amenities for its residents such as public tennis courts, a golf course or a swimming pool. To encourage people of all ages to be active, healthy and social, we need to encourage inexpensive, easily accessible sports in Los Banos. We need events that would attract people to our town and give them a reason to stay here once they retire. We need activities that families can participate in together. We need opportunities for residents of all ages to gather and compete in a friendly way. Pickleball is one perfect sport to fit all those criteria.
Let’s hope that our city leaders recognize this opportunity and create plans to build permanent pickleball courts in Los Banos.