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Thursday, February 2, 2023
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NewsCommunityPickleball pilot program sparks excitement in Milpitas

Pickleball pilot program sparks excitement in Milpitas

The fastest-growing sport in the United States appears to have taken Milpitas by storm.

Pickleball has been attracting a great deal of interest in our community lately – especially ever since the City of Milpitas launched a pilot program for the sport nearly six months ago. 

Although Milpitas currently has 25 tennis courts throughout the city, it has been lacking when it comes to dedicated courts for pickleball. Prior to the pilot program, people who wanted to play pickleball had to venture out to neighboring cities, go for drop-in hours at the Milpitas Sports Center, or set up their own nets at parks like Peter D. Gill Memorial. 

But in 2021, a group of pickleball players started reaching out to the City of Milpitas, requesting that something be done to accommodate the growing interest in the sport. 

In response, Milpitas officially launched a Pickleball Pilot Program during August of last year, to get a sense of usage and to assess the existing demand for pickleball courts. 

The pilot program consists of offering pickleball nets to both Gill Park and Hall Memorial Park, along with striping both areas for play. Balls are also available for players to use; everyone just has to bring their own paddles.  

Gill currently has two pickleball courts, placed atop two handball courts, that players can take advantage of during any day, as long as it’s between 9am and dusk.  

And over at Hall, dual-use courts have been created for pickleball across one and a half of the current tennis courts. Since pickleball covers a smaller area, a total of four pickleball courts can fit on one entire tennis court. This means that 6 courts can be set up for a total of 24 players at Hall Park. 

Last month, The Beat went out to visit Hall Park during a cold, dark evening…

The sounds of laughter and camaraderie could be heard across the courts. Despite the low temperature, all six pickleball courts were full. And there was even a line of players off to the side, waiting for their turn to play. 

One player, David, told The Beat that he was walking by the courts at Hall one day when he saw a bunch of people “who looked like they were having so much fun playing pickleball.” He decided then and there that he would have to give it a try. 

“I started coming out frequently every weekend,” David said. “Now I’m addicted to it.” 

David’s daughter recently came home from college, and he got her into playing the sport, as well. 

Viet Vu has been playing pickleball for the past couple years. He picked up the sport while he was living in Sacramento during the start of the pandemic. His parents urged him to get out of the house and give pickleball a try. He did – and became quickly hooked. 

Soon after, he moved out to Milpitas upon receiving a job offer in the area. Since he had grown up in Milpitas, he was thrilled to be back on familiar ground. However, when he looked up pickleball options in the area, he found there weren’t any. So he started playing at dedicated pickleball courts in Palo Alto, then San Jose. Then last year, he found out that Milpitas was starting its pilot program. 

“And people started asking me to stay in Milpitas to play,” said Vu. 

Vu began playing over at Hall Memorial Park. He even currently teaches and coaches new players who are seeking support with the game. 

Another Milpitas resident, Rashmi Sahoo, spoke to The Beat about how he had played tennis for about eight years, then discovered the pickleball courts at Hall… 

“I stopped playing tennis once I started pickleball,” Sahoo said. “I get more of a workout here.” 

Yogesh Gupta, who lives within walking distance of Hall Memorial, started playing at the courts, too. And he truly feels that, for the first time, his tax dollars are being put toward something of value.  

“This is a game that everybody loves,” said Gupta. “To me, it’s a very nice game and a good initiative by the City. They should continue it.”  

Steve Balsbaugh has been a strong voice in the Milpitas pickleball community, and was responsible for driving the initial push to connect with the City and advocate for courts. He explained to The Beat that having pickleball in the community offered a kind of “social infrastructure.” 

“This is where you get to interact with people. It’s a way for seniors to interact with society,” said Balsbaugh. “And it’s also for the younger generation. There’s a lot of social value in this.” 

At the December 20 Milpitas City Council meeting, Balsbaugh got up to thank the City Council for making the program possible. He spoke of how much the number of pickleball players in Milpitas has grown over the past year. 

Vice Mayor Evelyn Chua has been supportive of the pilot program, and has even gone out to the courts to play the game with others in the community. 

“After several meetings with the pickleball community, neighborhood communities, staff, former Mayor Tran, and myself, it’s amazing that currently, there are hundreds of players with pickleball courts at Gill and Hall parks and of course Milpitas Sports Center’s indoor courts,” shared Chua with The Beat. “Thanks to the continuous dialogue, understanding, and patience of the timeline, and on-point implementation of the plan — it made this pilot project a successful one.” 

The program will go for about another six months. Vice Mayor Chua told The Beat that once the pilot is complete, statistics will be presented to the Council, which will then determine appropriate next steps. 

However, Balsbaugh doesn’t believe that the City should wait until this coming August to make a determination. He feels that given the fast-rising number of pickleball players in Milpitas, along with the undeniable enthusiasm for the sport, the City should start working on allocating funds toward permanent pickleball courts in the near future. 

A preliminary City Council Budget Study Session will be happening on January 31. And a Capital Improvement Program Study Session is coming up on February 28. 

“We need to have permanent pickleball courts,” said Balsbaugh.  

To find out more info about the pilot program, go to the pickleball page on the City’s website.

 

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Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro is the winner of a 2022 Golden Quill Award for her Education journalism. She works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works mostly with nonprofit organizations and educational entities to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also the author of “Fierce Woman: Wake up your Badass Self.” Her YouTube channel features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s Founder and Editor-in-Chief.

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