New pickleball courts open at Alexandria City Park

These will be the first designated pickleball courts in the area, Parks Director Bill Thoennes said, adding that it’s a sport for all ages and abilities.

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Gary Waack (right) of Pierre, South Dakota, serves the ball on the new pickleball courts at Alexandria City Park Monday morning, Sept. 21. Waack and his partner, Don Rieniets, played against Dale Hagenson (left) and Todd Elmer, all of Alexandria. This was the first group to play on the new pickleball courts. (Celeste Edenloff / Echo Press)

New pickleball courts at Alexandria City Park were a sweet site to see for those who love the sport.

Minutes after the finishing touches were completed on the eight courts Monday morning, a group of four friends took to the bright blue and green courts to play a game of doubles.

The Alexandria City Council accepted bids for the $110,000 project last April, which included excavating, grading, paving, fencing and surface painting.

The new courts replace the aging tennis courts at the park. City Parks Director Bill Thoennes said the tennis courts, built in the mid-1950s, were in very tough shape.

These will be the first designated pickleball courts in the area, Thoennes said, adding that it’s a sport for all ages and abilities.


Pickleball is often referred to as “the fastest growing sport that no one knows about.” It’s a racquet sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis.

According to USA Pickleball, the sport was invented in 1965 on Washington state's Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle. Three dads, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum, whose kids were bored with their usual summertime activities, are credited for creating the game.

It evolved from original handmade equipment and simple rules into a popular sport throughout the U.S. and Canada. The game is growing internationally as well, with many European and Asian countries adding courts.

Why call it "pickleball?" USA Pickleball offers a couple of possibilities:

Joel Pritchard’s wife, Joan, said she started calling the game pickleball because the combination of different sports reminded her of the pickle boat in crews where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.

Barney McCallum said the game was officially named after the Pritchards’ dog, Pickles, who would chase the ball and run off with it. According to McCallum, “The Pritchards had a dog named Pickles, and you’re having fun at a party, right? So anyways, what the hell, let’s just call it pickleball.”

Others claim both accounts may actually be true. In the early years, no official name was assigned to the game. However, a year or two after the game was invented, the Pritchards purchased a cocker spaniel and named it Pickles.

As the game progressed, an official name was needed and “pickleball” was it.


Al Edenloff is the editor of the twice-weekly Echo Press. He started his journalism career when he was in 10th grade, writing football and basketball stories for the Parkers Prairie Independent.
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