Grassroots group courts pickleball players with plan to re-craft lake’s tennis complex

Pickleball, the country’s fastest-growing pastime, is poised to put down roots at Lake Gladewater, and city council members seem ready to pick up a paddle.
No action was taken during their monthly meeting April 18, but the group gave an unofficial nod to pending renovation of the tennis courts at Garland P. Ferguson Park following a presentation from Ofc. Tyler Sorrells. He was representing both the Gladewater Police Officers Association and the newly-formed Gladewater Pickleball Club to publicize their partnership on the plan.
“I’ve only recently begun my obsession with this sport… There’s an extremely high demand for places to play,” said Sorrells, son of council member (and fellow pickleball player) Teddy Sorrells. The officers are keen to pick up the project as an outreach to residents, he added: “I want to show the community that we care about the people here, and I also want to encourage active and healthy lifestyles.”
The game’s been around since the late-1980s, Sorrells noted, but it’s seen an incredible surge in interest.
According to a range of statistics, the participation in the sport has grown by 50 to 150 percent annually in recent years. Approximately 36.5 million Americans played the game at least once in the past year according to the 2023 APP Pickleball Participation Report.
“Pickleball is a game played with a wiffleball and a paddle that is similar to both tennis and ping pong,” the 31-year-old Sorrells explained, proposing renovation of the existing 118- by 58-foot slab at the lake park into four 20×44 pickleball courts. Once completed, it’s aimed to be the second-largest professionally-crafted complex of its kind in this area: “People will come from all over the area to play at our courts.”
The project has a fundraising goal of $15,000, with several thousand already committed from the police association and private donors. Sorrells anticipates construction can be completed in the next couple of months.
“We don’t want to just renovate the court, we want to make it look nice as well. I believe we are ready to get started whenever the blessing is given.”
He got as much Thursday night, with Mayor Scott Owens noting no action was set for the council as the grassroots project can be handled in coordination with interim City Manager Charlie Smith.
“Sounds great to me,” Owens said.
“Thank you for spearheading this and bring it to Gladewater,” council member Brandy Flanagan added. “It’s going to be great.”
With tennis courts still available to the public through Gladewater ISD, council member Rocky Hawkins said, “If they’re open, I say go for it.”

– By James Draper

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