Pickleball push in South County pays off as Morgan Hill breaks ground on public courts

Pickleball push in South County pays off as Morgan Hill breaks ground on public courts

The fastest-growing sport in the country has found a permanent home in Morgan Hill, as the city broke ground Friday on a space that will become four public pickleball courts.

To celebrate the occasion, city officials hosted a groundbreaking ceremony at the new location in Morgan Hill Community Park. Representatives from the city, the office of Supervisor Sylvia Arenas and the Morgan Hill Pickleball Club joined to give speeches and participate in a ceremonial pickleball toss.

The ceremony represented another step in a years-long effort by local pickleball enthusiasts to create a free, dedicated space for pickleball in Morgan Hill.

“(Just over) a year and a half ago, there was no pickleball in this town. Now we’ve got these four (courts) going in,” said Sherry Hemingway, a member of the Morgan Hill Pickleball Club who collaborated with the city in a push for the courts. “This is a really big deal.”

The seed for the project was planted in early 2022, when Hemingway and other enthusiasts approached the city asking for outdoor pickleball courts. While the city had indoor courts, they were part of a center that required a fee to enter. In May of 2022, the city painted three temporary pickleball courts on a basketball court, splitting its use between the two sports.

Over the following year, the Parks and Recreation Commission finished the design of the permanent courts, and in November of 2023, the project was awarded to EF&S concrete and budgeted for $367,000 dollars. The courts will feature professional surfacing to the standards of USA Pickleball. According to Morgan Hill Public Services Manager Chris Ghione, construction should take four months, barring heavy rain or other weather issues.

“This is a great opportunity for our community to come together around a sport like this, that we believe we can promote and continue to grow,” said Morgan Hill Mayor Mark Turner at the groundbreaking. Turner said out that the viral mix of badminton, ping-pong, and tennis has been the fastest-growing sport in the nation three years running and had inspired “not an addiction … an allegiance” in the Morgan Hill community. The sport grew by more than 170% from 2018-2022, according to a report by the Sports & Recreation Industry Association.

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Local resident Tim Hendrick started playing just over a year ago, and is now the president of the Morgan Hill Pickleball Club. “(Pickleball) is so friendly,” he said. “None of us (in the club) knew each other before we started playing pickleball, Everybody plays the game to have fun. Everybody works at whatever level you’re at. It’s such a social kind of event.”

“It’s pretty addicting. Once you get out, you have fun really quick,” said John Morales, a Morgan Hill resident and pickleball enthusiast, after the ceremony. “There’s a lot of momentum for the sport. It’s good for the city. It’s good for everybody.”

Even with the first courts yet to be completed, Ghione said expects that this won’t be the last set of pickleball courts built in Morgan Hill. “The number of people playing is just exploding, so we expect there to be even more demand for more courts in the future,” he said.

Once completed, the pickleball courts will be free and open for public use with limited formal use managed by Morgan Hill Parks and Recreation. More information on the courts is available at https://www.morganhill.ca.gov/2299/Future-Pickleball-Courts.