TAMPA — Pickleball players, get ready.
Hillsborough County plans to expand its pickleball offerings at multiple parks over the next several years.
Pickleball, a hybrid of tennis, badminton and ping pong, is considered the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. with 4.2 million players in 2020, according to a report from the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Department. Despite its connotation of being a retiree-heavy sport, the county said the average age of all players is 38 years old.
Currently, the county has 14 courts dedicated for pickleball use and 18 others that are dual striped and can be used for either tennis or pickleball. That is about to change. This week, the county revealed plans to build 46 courts at 11 locations.
“It’s catching on with all age groups There’s clearly a demand for it,” said Commissioner Stacy White, who advocated for the expansion.
Over the next two years the county plans to add four pickleball courts at Branchton Park and two at Town n’ Country Park. Additionally, the county will build two dual-striped courts at both Villa Rosa Park and Chandler parks. Funding for those projects already is budgeted. Likewise, the county said it will use park impact fees for a $900,000 expansion at Saladino Park that will include two pickleball courts and other new amenities.
The county also proposed to spend a little less than $2.8 million to add 34 courts among Higgenbotham, Progress Village, Springhead, Westwood Lake and Balm parks, as well as the North Lakes Sports Complex. Some of the projects will be new construction, and other locations will see existing tennis or basketball courts converted for pickleball use.
The eight-court expansion at North Lakes, combined with the existing eight courts there, will give the county a facility to be host to large-scale pickleball tournaments, said Rick Valdez, director of parks and recreation.
The funding request for $2.77 million will be included in the proposed 2023 fiscal year budget.