West Chester park adds pickleball courts to join growing popularity

It’s the middle of winter, but people are still talking about pickleball and the new courts that opened in West Chester Twp.

Last year, when the township took a survey of residents who frequent Keehner Park, installing pickleball courts was a popular response. There are now two courts just waiting for the weather to break.

Steven Cornell is a pickleball advocate who also plays the game in Middletown, the self-proclaimed “Pickleball Capital of Ohio,” and Mason, and he helped the township movement to add them, wanting courts closer to home. He produced a 19-page presentation on the sport, describing it as a combination of tennis, badminton and table tennis.

“I found pickleball, seniors normally don’t play singles, seniors play doubles, so when you’re playing you’re interacting with other people,” said Cornell, a 67-year-old retiree. “It’s almost like a community, you get to know people, you make new friends.”

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He created a Facebook page about the Keehner Park courts, and there are 40 members discussing everything from rackets to indoor places to play.

Cornell’s pitch to the township outlines the rapid popularity growth of the sport. USA Pickleball Association membership is up 64 percent since 2010 and the number of places to play has increased 385 percent.

“You make a whole lot of friends, you get exercise and it’s easy on the body,” he said.

West Chester planned to revamp the tennis and basketball courts at Keehner last year and decided to take the pulse of the people who use the facility. Barb Wilson, director of Public Information & Engagement for the township, said they posted a survey at the park and on their social media pages.

The township transformed the paved sports area at the park from tennis and basketball courts into two pickleball courts, two basketball courts, one tennis court and a small multi-purpose court within one fenced in play area. The court resurfacing and striping cost about $140,000 and removing the old fence and installing a new one was another $30,000.

Trustee Board President Ann Becker said she is glad they have provided another forum for fun to their residents.

“We love people using Keehner Park, it’s one of the premier assets in the township,” Becker said. “So we want more people there, to get exercise and to have fun.”

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