Pickleball tournament

Local adults play in a pickleball tournament hosted by Loudoun County Parks, Recreation & Community Services in October 2020.

During its Monday meeting, the joint committee of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and the Loudoun County School Board discussed the possible resurfacing of public school tennis courts to accommodate pickleball.

Loudoun County Public Schools and the county’s Parks, Recreation & Community Services department began discussing the idea at the suggestion of Supervisor Juli Briskmann (D-Algonkian), who noticed a recent surge in pickleball popularity in her home district.

Pickleball is a paddle-based sport that is very similar to tennis, though it employs use of a holed ball similar to a wiffleball and uses less than half the court space of tennis, according to LCPS Assistant Superintendent for Support Services Kevin Lewis.

PRCS Director Steve Torpy said any time his department has recently resurfaced a tennis court — such as in Purcellville’s Franklin Park — they have added lines for pickleball, often resulting in “significant use” by the community.

“We have some very dedicated pickleball players [in Loudoun County],” Torpy said.

“Basically, if you build it, they will come play pickleball,” said Supervisor Kristen Umstattd (D-Leesburg), who co-chairs the joint committee with School Board Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District).

Lewis outlined the logistical implications of integrating pickleball into LCPS tennis courts, which are currently available for public use outside school hours and barring reservations by PCRS or other community organizations.

Approved organizations are currently able to reserve tennis courts for $15 per hour per court for a minimum of two hours, Lewis said.

Neither the county nor LCPS are currently aware of organized pickleball teams or leagues in the county, though PCRS does host adult pickleball tournaments, according to its Facebook page.

While putting down new markings for pickleball would not conflict with VHSL guidelines as long as the new markings would use alternate colors, net height would present a potential issue, as regulation pickleball nets are several inches shorter than tennis nets.

The existing nets on LCPS courts are not adjustable to pickleball height, per Lewis, so pickleball markings would either have to occupy a separate half of each tennis court and use a portable net, or simply make do with a tennis net.

School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles District) preferred the convenience of the latter, saying a taller-than-regulation net would be of minimal concern for casual players.

“Obviously we’re not handling the pro circuit yet for pickleball, so I like Mr. Lewis’ idea of just allowing them to use the tennis nets with the additional pickleball stripes,” he said.

Responding to a question from Sheridan, Torpy said the cost of tennis court resurfacing would likely fall on LCPS since the changes would be taking place on school property.

Sheridan said she “would need more information” before consenting to adding pickleball striping, including how long the process would take.

Since Briskmann initiated the discussion but was absent for Monday’s meeting, Umstattd requested that the committee revisit the topic at a later date.

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