Pickleball Fever: Join the paddle craze
December 14, 2023 · Insights, Projects
From an increase in pickleball courts, to an uptick in pickleball gear and accessory sales, the sport has taken over the United States. According to a 2023 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the total number of pickleball participants rose from 4.8 million in 2021 to 8.9 million in 2022. With this trajectory, it is safe to say pickleball is here to stay.
Goodwyn Mills Cawood (GMC) designed its first pickleball courts for the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) at the Auburn Marriott Opelika Hotel & Conference Center at Grand National in 2010, long before the recent “pickleball takeover.” Since then, GMC has seen a steady increase in pickleball court design, with exponential growth in the last five years.
John Bricken, GMC’s Executive Vice President of Landscape Architecture, has designed numerous pickleball courts over the years and says there are many different aspects to consider before beginning the design process. “Site selection is first. We often look at existing parks and recreational facilities first to see if we can feasibly convert the current space,” he says. “If not, we start looking for sites that are large enough to accommodate not only courts, but also parking, restrooms or other amenities the client may want to include.”
In 2021, GMC converted existing soccer fields at Auburn University into eight pickleball courts, as well as 11 tennis courts, to provide additional recreation opportunities for students and support overall health and wellness. “There are numerous studies that have linked students’ success in the classroom to their participation in physical activity and recreation,” Scott Harper, director of facilities and operations for Campus Recreation, said in an article published by the university.
Currently, GMC is working on the preliminary design to transform existing baseball fields into a new pickleball complex in north Alabama. The facility will feature 22 courts for the sport, 16 of which will be completely shaded.
Existing parks and outdoor areas aren’t the only facilities being transformed into these courts, however; some communities have begun converting buildings, such as hangars and malls to support the popular sport. One of the primary considerations for these indoor and covered facilities is adequate ceiling height to ensure there’s enough clearance for play.
Other key design considerations include fencing, lighting, drainage and other support facilities. While some projects may solely consist of courts themselves, others may be supplemented with amenities such as a pro shop, clubhouse and more.
Whatever the scope may be, landscape architects work closely with civil engineers, surveyors, geotechnical engineers, electrical engineers and others to ensure these multifaceted projects are developed successfully.
“There’s a lot more that goes into designing a pickleball court than meets the eye, but seeing people out enjoying them once they’re finished is well worth it,” says Bricken.