KEARNEY — Four regulation-size pickleball courts are completed and will be dedicated at Harvey Park next week.
“We did it right. The city wasn’t going to do it halfway. This is the first pickleball facility in the state to be built from the ground up, not just the conversion of an existing tennis court,” said Dave Waggoner, a Kearney pickleball enthusiast and fundraiser whose name will be on one of the new courts.
Played in Kearney for several decades, pickleball combines badminton, tennis and table tennis on a court that’s similar to what’s used for tennis, except that it’s smaller, so there is less ground for players to cover.
The dedication ceremony will be 5:30 p.m Wednesday at Harvey Park.
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“I’m really excited because in my five years of playing pickleball, I’ve never played on a regulation court,” Jim Hawkins, president of the Pickleball Club, told the City Council in March before its members voted to accept private assistance and move forward on the new courts.
Waggoner said some senior citizens from Kearney fly south to escape Nebraska’s cold winters. He said Kearney’s snowbirds are discovering pickleball at their winter residences and bringing their enthusiasm for the sport back to Kearney.
Pickleball has been called the fastest growing game in America, mostly because of its popularity among seniors seeking fun ways to exercise and keep fit. The Kearney Pickleball Club has almost 90 members and it’s growing, Waggoner said.
The council voted in March to accept $100,000 from the B.M. Stevenson Family Fund as seed money for the pickleball courts, which are on the northeast corner of Harvey Park. Cost of the courts was $230,000, so the Kearney Pickleball Club conducted a drive and raised the remaining money in about 10 months.
“Fundraising went well,” Waggoner said. “We had generous anonymous donors. And the Kearney Pickleball Club worked at Hy-Vee sacking. We got $500 or $600 each time.”
Pickleball can be played at several indoor venues in Kearney, including the Kearney Family YMCA, said Waggoner, who owns a large building with two pickleball courts.
In addition to Harvey Park, outdoor courts are available at Apollo Park, but they are not suitable for high level competition. During the Nebraska Senior Games in Kearney, pickleball frequently attracts more entries than other sports.