Pickleball fans in Gearhart have a new reason to celebrate. The city of Gearhart approved the permanent conversion of one tennis court to two pickleball courts on Aug. 7.

Although construction won’t likely be completed for some time, according to Alice Lane, volunteer for the Oregon North Coast Pickleball Association.

Pickleball enthusiast Wally Hamer approached the City Council in May with proposed alterations to Gearhart’s two existing tennis courts in order to create space for pickleball without disruption to tennis players.

Pickleball players have raised about $6,000 of the estimated $10,000 cost; city councilors voted to pay the difference for putting two pickleball courts on the site of the northeast tennis court. Funds could come from the city’s park budget or from short-term rental tax revenue from the Clatsop County Jail, close to $40,000. The pickleball courts will be designed from north to south, with a fence installed between the two courts. Another fence will separate the new courts from the tennis court.

While the Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District offers outdoor pickleball in Seaside, the closest indoor pickleball is at Camp Rilea, and there are often dozens of people waiting to play during the two days per week the tennis courts are available for pickleballers.

“We had 30 people waiting for the courts at Camp Rilea,” Lane said. “There are really no public outdoor courts in this area. Gearhart is the very first community on the coast and it will be instrumental, as a matter of fact the Armory is thinking about doing it, even Warrenton at the soccer and baseball fields.”

Lane, a lifelong tennis enthusiast and instructor, has been playing pickleball since 2004. She attributes the growing popularity of the sport to its accessibility and short learning curve.

“I’m a tennis person, and most pickleball people are former tennis players,” Lane said. “It’s a faster game. Tennis took years of lessons — pickleball is easy. Whole families can play, we play Wednesday and Saturday at Camp Rilea. The game draws people out of their shells.”

But not every family wants to come to the camp, and the two days per week the courts are open don’t accommodate every schedule. Other regional courts are strictly indoors or on asphalt, which isn’t ideal for older players or those with knee injuries who often prefer the softer tennis courts for comfort, safety and health.

The game itself is similar to tennis. It’s an 11-point game and is described as a cross between ping-pong and tennis. Lane emphasized that there is room for both sports at the courts.

“We’ve been playing there since 2016, more and more people are playing and there is a real demand to play”, Lane said. “But tennis isn’t going away and there’s room for everyone.”

The fee to use the courts at Camp Rilea is $3 per two-hour session, and that includes the use of the court and the balls and paddles. Since the Gearhart court is public it will be first-come first-serve and the equipment won’t be provided. But there won’t be a fee either.

If you can’t wait for the new public Gearhart pickleball courts to be completed, the Camp Rilea courts are located at 33168 Patriot Way in Warrenton. To enter the camp you’ll need your driver’s license and at least $3 but it’s a great place for beginners as the seasoned pickleballers will provide light coaching.

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