SUNDRE — As pickleball’s popularity continues to grow, a local resident and passionate enthusiast of the relatively new paddle sport has embarked on a mission to raise money for an outdoor court.
“I’ve taken it upon myself to start a Gofundme page,” said Brenda Salsman, a Sundre citizen who previously lived in the Bearberry area for about 18 years.
In the absence of having somewhere local to play outside, Salsman said she and others have set up some games by creating an improvised court on a parking lot at the Coyote Creek Golf & RV Resort.
“That’s how desperate people are in this area to play!” she said, adding the only outdoor courts available are out of town.
While she admits not being the most experienced pickleball player around, Salsman said she quickly fell in love with and became addicted to the paddle sport.
It has been described as combining elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite material to hit a perforated polymer ball over a net.
Although a location has not yet been determined for certain, one possibility is to resurface the degraded tennis ball courts behind Sundre High School, said Salsman, who has coordinated with municipal as well as Chinook’s Edge School Division officials to pitch the idea.
“You can play tennis and pickleball on the same court,” she said.
“We’ve been targetting both the tennis and pickleball communities.”
But pickleball, which is easier to learn and play than tennis, has a broader appeal. And the location near the school would be ideal for its accessibility not only to students but the community as well, she said, adding the resurfaced court would be for everybody.
“It’s such a healthy sport,” she said.
Having researched the cost and obtained some quotes, Salsman, who is optimistic about progressing with the project in the spring, anticipates the effort to resurface the aging tennis courts, which are already fenced off, would have a roughly $40,000 price tag.
So far, more than $9,000 has been raised, in part through the Gofundme campaign as well as donations by cheque, she said, expressing gratitude to local businesses that have already pledged support. Jerry Leussink has also been approaching local businesses to assist the fundraising effort, she said.
Sandy Bexon, communications officer with Chinook’s Edge School Division, said the tennis courts behind the high school are — as per a joint use agreement with the municipality — under the town’s responsibility.
So while the division would support Salsman’s initiative in spirit, a final decision on whether to move forward would ultimately come down to the municipality, said Bexon.
Barb Rock, Sundre’s community services assistant, said the municipality supports the initiative, but is not leading the charge.
“It’s being driven by the community,” she said.
“It’s not a town project.”
As outlined in the joint use agreement, Rock added the municipality maintains the site and can freely book the court, as well as the nearby sports fields, from April 15 to September 15. During the remainder of the school year, however, she said bookings can be scheduled after classes and weekends.
“We have a good relationship with the school.”
Principal Scott Saunders confirmed that some physical education classes occasionally use the courts from time to time when it fits their schedule.
And despite the deteriorated state of the court, there are even some residents who enjoy the opportunity to use it.
“I come out here almost every day to practise my serve,” said long-time Sundre resident Anton Walker.
While he usually plays tennis, Walker said he’s no stranger to pickleball.
“It’s good fun too,” he said.
Walker welcomes Salsman’s fundraising effort to resurface the deteriorated court. Throughout his 15 years in town, he said there have been others who mused about the possibility of repairing the courts, but added Salsman is the first to bring the energy to get the ball rolling.
Rock is confident that once complete, the court would provide another recreational amenity that will be well used. People want to play tennis and they want to play pickleball, with the option to go outside as much as possible. Additionally, the sport is less about competing and more about being a socially active and casual way of getting exercise, she said.
“It’ll be another place for people to go and be active.”
Linda Nelson, chief administrative officer, said there has been no request for funding, and that the project is largely in a fact-finding phase.
“Brenda is doing a lot of research…she’s very energetic and enthusiastic and has put a ton of work into this already,” said Nelson, adding council and administration are interested in and supportive of the initiative.
“We have heard that there is a lot of interest from the community and that this type of facility would be very well used,” she said.
“Any initiative that supports the community is something that the town and council would take very seriously,” she said, adding it’s a matter of investigating the options and getting as many details as possible before making a well-informed decision.
“Of course we have a lot of work left to do…we’re in the very, very beginning steps.”
While the existing tennis court could be a suitable site, there might be opportunities for other locations, she said, without citing specific examples.
“That might be one of the things that we might look at,” she said.
“We don’t know that yet.”
Although there remains some conversations to be had, Nelson said that with the amount of work Salsman has already invested, the goal of getting the court completed in the spring “most likely is feasible.”