KCB pickleball players raise funds for new courts - A group of people on a court - Florida Keys
The pickleball players of Key Colony Beach raised $36,000 in private donations to extend the grant for new pickleball courts. CONTRIBUTED

You say “pickleball,” your friend says “what?” Take that friend to Key Colony Beach.

The tennis-like sport is unknown to many, but is growing at an astronomical rate. Thanks to a dedicated group of players in KCB, the Middle Keys are now well-equipped to continue the trend.

As Key Colony resident Ted Fischer explained, “Pickleball is very attractive to the baby boomer generation. Everyone who was an athlete can’t strain themselves as much as they get older. By shortening the court and lowering the velocity of the ball, it enables people with fast reflexes to be very good at the game.” Pickleball revolves around spin, finesse shots and ball placement rather than strenuous running and power shots.

According to Fischer, pickleball in Key Colony Beach began in 2007 with former tennis pro Hans Kostler. The initial games started on a converted basketball court on 7th Street, but more courts were soon added and resurfaced on 7th and 8th streets as the group grew. Kostler began running beginners’ clinics where newcomers could learn, advance their game, and eventually integrate with the larger group.

As the competitive gatherings grew, a few players applied for grants from the Florida Recreation Development Assistance Program. The initial grant in the amount of $50,000 was intended to encompass the construction of new courts on 7th Street, upgrades to the existing golf course between 7th and 8th Street, renovations to the existing fitness circuit around the golf course, and construction of a new tiki hut for players to use. 

Pickleball is a fast-paced, finesse-based hybrid between tennis and ping pong. Played with wooden or composite paddles, the game’s court is many feet shorter and narrower than a tennis court with a slightly lower net. Players alternate hitting a hard ball (not unlike a wiffleball) over the net until one team commits a fault. The wiffleball’s slower speed allows for accentuated focus on reflexes, spin and finesse, rather than power.

The project was delayed several times due to noise complaints from concerned residents and, of course, Hurricane Irma, but in the spring of 2018, a small group of players revisited their initial goals. Determined to finish the renovations before the grant expired, Mike Alexander spearheaded a new proposal that would satisfy the grant requirements and allow for the construction of four brand new courts on 8th Street. The total cost of the proposed work? $95,000.

Realizing that they would need significant financial help beyond the $50,000 in grant money and the $10,000 pledged by the city, the group promised to raise the additional $35,000 needed to complete the full scope of work outlined in their proposal. Thanks to the generosity of their strong playing group, community organizations, and many local businesses, the fundraising campaign headed by Fischer raised $36,000, and the project was soon completed.

Today, players can be found at the 8th Street courts every day offering competitive games from 7:30 to 11 a.m. USA Pickleball Association skill assessment sheets at the courts allow experienced players to ascertain their approximate skill level and match themselves against similar players, while newcomers can use the courts on 7th Street, play on the newest courts later in the day, or visit the tennis courts at the Marathon Community Park from 5 to 7 p.m. on Thursdays for recreational play.

 

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