Vernon Hills latest to catch pickleball fever

 
 
Updated 10/17/2018 7:15 PM
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  • Six outdoor pickleball courts are scheduled to open Thursday at Deerpath Park in Vernon Hills. "Pickleball is the number one most-growing sport in the country right now," said Jeff Fougerousse, executive director of the Vernon Hills Park District.

    Six outdoor pickleball courts are scheduled to open Thursday at Deerpath Park in Vernon Hills. "Pickleball is the number one most-growing sport in the country right now," said Jeff Fougerousse, executive director of the Vernon Hills Park District. Courtesy of Vernon Hills Park District

  • Outdoor pickleball courts debuted in September 2015 at Behm Homestead Park in Fremont Township. Since then, 78 additional pickleball facilities have opened in Illinois.

      Outdoor pickleball courts debuted in September 2015 at Behm Homestead Park in Fremont Township. Since then, 78 additional pickleball facilities have opened in Illinois. Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

  • Courtesy of Sue MorrisAmy McGuan of Libertyville, left, teams with Greg Burgh of Grayslake at the net against Bill Morris of Grayslake and Cathy Freuger of Lake Villa during a pickleball match Wednesday at the Libertyville Sports Complex.

    Courtesy of Sue MorrisAmy McGuan of Libertyville, left, teams with Greg Burgh of Grayslake at the net against Bill Morris of Grayslake and Cathy Freuger of Lake Villa during a pickleball match Wednesday at the Libertyville Sports Complex.

Deerpath Park in Vernon Hills will become the latest stop on the pickleball express Thursday, with six outdoor courts opening for public use.

The converted tennis courts will be the first and only permanent pickleball courts for the Vernon Hills Park District. They looked ready to go earlier in the week, but painted lines on the distinct blue court surfaces had to cure before play was allowed.

Pickleball is a paddle sport that mixes badminton, tennis and pingpong that has seen a steady increase in suburban participation, with new facilities opening in recent months from Naperville to Waukegan.

It had been on the Vernon Hills Park District's radar for awhile. About a year and half ago, three temporary indoor courts were fashioned at the Sullivan Community Center. Participation was considerable and the park board began exploring a more permanent option, said Jeff Fougerousse, executive director.

"Pickleball is the number one most-growing sport in the country right now," he said. "We had a couple of public meetings, (and) pickleballers came out pretty heavy."

The decision was made to convert two tennis courts at Deerpath Park to pickleball courts. Because the base was sound, the work mainly involved re-coating the surfaces, striping, installing netting and related items for a total cost of about $30,000 Fougerousse said.

"We have 10 other tennis courts, and the village has four tennis courts, so there are 14 tennis courts open to the public and no pickleball courts," he said. The district also is working with Vernon Hills High School on the use of its 10 tennis courts during the summer, he added.

"It was a pretty easy decision for the park board" to proceed with the project, he said.

Equipment is available at the Sullivan Center, 635 N. Aspen Drive, for those who want to play.

The USA Pickleball Association describes the activity as "the biggest sport you've never heard of" and lists 192 places to play in Illinois. That compares with 124 Illinois listings in 2015, when the outdoor courts at Behm Homestead Park on Peterson Road in Fremont Township opened.

Avid player and Grayslake resident Bill Morris was among those at Behm Park on opening day that September. He said the number of outdoor facilities in Lake County has increased dramatically the past three years.

Since that time, the Waukegan Park District has built six pickleball-only courts, Grayslake Park District has built two, and Gurnee Park District this summer opened a pickleball-only complex with eight outdoor courts, he noted.

New facilities in Lombard, Palatine and Naperville also opened this year.

And there is no shortage of indoor facilities. Morris said there are about 150 players on various lists who head to the Libertyville Sports Complex when the weather turns.

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