Pickleball returns to Community Park South in Princeton for Memorial Day weekend

Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the country. Photo by Joan Azeka.

America’s fastest-growing sport is returning to the Princeton Recreation Department’s lineup for the Memorial Day Weekend.

Residents can play pickleball on four pickleball courts at Community Park South from dawn to dusk on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, May 27-29.

Evan Moorhead, executive director of the Princeton Recreation Department, said his department was able to make pickleball courts available this holiday weekend because the Princeton Tennis Program is not using the tennis courts at Community Park South.

The recreation department is in the final year of a three-year contract with the Princeton Tennis Program, which leases and operates 15 courts at Community Park South for six months of the year, Moorhead said. The organization has full access to the courts during the outdoor tennis season.

From mid-October 2022 through late April 2023, the recreation department conducted a trial period to see what the demand for pickleball was in the community. Two tennis courts were converted into four pickleball courts for the trial period. The recreation department now has a pickleball subcommittee that will make recommendations to the recreation commission in the future. The recreation department must give the Princeton Tennis Program six months’ notice if the department decides not to roll over its existing contract and dedicate some of the courts to pickleball.

“The recreation commission is exploring ways pickleball can have a more permanent presence as a department offering,” Moorhead said.

Pickleball, which is played with a plastic ball and a paddle, is played on a smaller court, which means less running back and forth. The sport is mostly played by doubles teams.

The Princeton Senior Resource Center offers indoor pickleball courts, and the Mercer Bucks Pickleball Club in Ewing is thriving. The Ewing facility, located at 370 Sullivan Way, has a membership waiting list. There are even professional pickleball teams and leagues now.

“It’s very social because it’s doubles and it is a smaller court size, so you can talk,” said Ken Naglak, who plays pickleball with his wife at the Mercer Bucks Pickleball Club.

“From a physical perspective, it is not very taxing like tennis, and you can get up to speed and play reasonably well pretty quickly. If you really want to excel it does take effort and practice, but the learning curve to play reasonably well is not steep.” Naglak said. “And it’s decent aerobic exercise for senior citizens.”

pickleball court
A standard pickleball court is about the same size as a doubles badminton court and the court measures 44 feet long (inclusive of lines) and 20 feet wide. The net height of a pickleball court is 36 inches high at the sidelines and 34 inches high in the middle. Photo by Lesli Whitecotton.