By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Westborough – The ever-growing local pickleball community celebrated a major step forward, Aug. 19, with the opening of four new courts near Westborough’s Lake Chauncy Public Beach.
Expanding a complex that already had four courts, this addition makes Westborough’s one of the largest facilities in the region solely dedicated to the sport of pickleball.
“The town of Westborough has done a great job of making this,” local player John Campbell said shortly before playing his first game on the new courts. “We get one of the best pickleball complexes in the commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Much like tennis, pickleball involves players standing on a court batting a ball over a waist-high net. Instead of rackets, though, they use paddles. Instead of a tennis ball, they use something more resembling a whiffle ball.
Long played in isolated pockets of the country, the sport has emerged in recent years as a favorite activity of senior citizens in particular.
“It’s easy to learn,” Campbell said. “There’s no big male/female advantage like some games. And you can play competitively even though most people play in a recreational manner.”
In Westborough, a loose collection of players has convened regularly for nearly a decade to play at a half dozen different facilities.
From Boylston’s Major Taylor Middle School, to the Westborough YMCA, group leader Nelson Ball recognizes that conditions at the group’s temporary home venues have not always been great.
Many locations didn’t allow players to paint specific pickleball lines on courts. At the YMCA, low ceilings in an old recreation room made play difficult.
“It’s a wonder we didn’t put holes in the ceiling,” he joked in remarks on Aug. 19.
Westborough Recreation officials saw the need for a designated pickleball complex several years ago and started work on the now sprawling set-up off Lyman Street. As work gradually wrapped, they opened the first four courts to the overwhelming satisfaction of local players.
Now, they’ve added four more courts thanks to the generosity of Ball himself, who footed the bill for this project.
“He really advocated to get dedicated pickleball courts,” Recreation Department Director Jennifer Kirkland said. “So, we went with it. We had the space, and people really wanted it.”
Dozens of players spanning generations turned out for a ribbon cutting on Aug. 19. Social distancing and wearing masks amid COVID-19, the group was excited and optimistic about the future of their sport in town.
Meanwhile, for Kirkland and town officials, who’ve seen people like Nelson Ball work for years to build this informal community, this is, indeed, both a moment of major progress, and a win for the town.
“A lot of people think [the] Rec. [Department] is just for kids, but we aren’t,” she said. “We do care about adults and the seniors in town. So, this was just a great way to give seniors and adults a place to recreate. It means a lot.”
Photos and video/Dakota Antelman