Bids are out: 6 outdoor pickleball courts coming to Bartlett

Pickleball players pounded the courts and sent the ball humming over the nets at Bartlett Recreation Center during the 2017 Spring Fling Pickleball Tourney. About 130 people from multiple states participated. Photo by Carolyn Bahm.

Bids are out for building six new pickleball courts in Bartlett, and local fans of the low-impact sport say they can’t wait.

“We’re really excited about these courts. I’m just glad that it’s here finally,” said Rick Darling, coordinator of Bartlett’s annual charitable pickleball tournament.

The sport with a funny name combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, with two or four players using a paddle and a plastic ball with holes in it. It can be played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net.

Bartlett’s Parks & Recreation Director Shan Criswell said the city is building six lighted courts with a parking lot entrance, sign and sidewalk going to the courts at Shadowlawn Park. The site will also have two sets of bleachers outside the courts and four benches inside the courts. Dalhoff Thomas design studio in Memphis designed the project.

Bids for the project will be opened on July 9, and construction should begin within 10 days after the successful bidder receives notice to proceed. All construction should be completed within 120 days after the notice.

“I am very excited that we are building this wonderful amenity in Bartlett,” Criswell said. “Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, especially among the senior population, and the ability for communities to meet the playing demands has not been able to keep up the pace.”

Criswell said the sport is easy to learn and tends to be low impact and inexpensive.

“It is now growing in popularity with younger people, so it is a sport where you can see grandparents playing with their grandchildren. This broad appeal of pickleball across generations presents a unique opportunity to promote a fun, healthy and social activity in the Bartlett community,” she said.

Pickleball enthusiast Sue Ann Bowers said she has been playing for about six years. Like many pickleball players, she and her husband Rick often go to tournaments for fun. They played in Jackson, Tenn., last weekend and have also played in Germantown, Collierville, Midtown and Memphis.

“I just enjoy the camaraderie, the fellowship, the friendships you make over time,” she said. “… I love the outdoors. I think it’ll be great.”

Darling said other cities are also getting pickleball fever: Arlington has converted some tennis courts into pickleball courts. Germantown is opening six pickleball courts this Friday and will host a tournament at Cameron-Brown Park for the groundbreaking.

The Bartlett tournament draws crowds of players to the Bartlett Recreation Center and Singleton Community Center each year for indoor play. It’s normally an April event, but the COVID-19 pandemic ended that option for 2020. Darling said he expects there to be a decision by July 1 on whether the 7th annual tourney will be rescheduled for September. Organizers currently expect about 180 people to play if the event is held this year.

The 2019 tournament raised about $15,250, benefiting the Youth Villages Life Set Program. To date, the tournament has raised more than $40,000 over the past six years of operation. In the past two years alone it has raised more than $25,000 of that.