Newly refurbised tennis and pickleball courts in Austin's Columbus Park. Credit: Trey Arline/ Block Club Chicago

AUSTIN — The West Side is joining in on the city’s pickleball mania with new courts in Columbus Park.

Four rehabbed tennis courts and four pickleball courts opened Sept. 30 at Columbus Park, 500 S. Central Ave., with the courts at the southeast corner of Austin and Adams boulevards. Lights have also been added to the court area to allow for nighttime playing, according to the Park District.

The pickleball courts at Columbus Park bring the rapidly growing sport to the West Side, as it’s the only public park west of Kimball Avenue and south of Belmont Avenue to have the courts, according to the Park District’s pickleball map.

City officials said the increased accessibility to pickleball is an important asset for young people so they can have a safe space to play.

“Our new tennis and pickleball courts will provide a recreational opportunity and physical wellbeing resource in the heart of Chicago’s West Side …,” Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) said in a statement.

Pickleball — a hybrid of tennis, badminton and ping pong — has skyrocketed in popularity, to the excitement — and the chagrin — of many Chicagoans.

Pickleball is relatively inexpensive to play. A 2023 APP Pickleball Participation report from YouGov shows 14 percent of Americans played pickleball at least once in a 12-month period, with 8.5 million people played pickleball eight or more times.

The Park District has been aggressively expanding its pickleball offerings to keep up with demand. Outdoor pickleball courts are available at 27 city parks. The district has plans to bring its count of pickleball courts to 200 by the end of 2025.

“While tennis is a long-time local favorite here [in Austin], pickleball is growing rapidly in popularity among neighboring residents here as it is across the city and the country,” Park District Supt. Rosa Escareño said. “Now these beloved sports can take place simultaneously in this historic park.” 

Neighbors are able to give their input into possible pickleball court locations on the Park District’s website.

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