Let’s say you are walking down the street and you come up on a tennis court.
You don’t have a tennis racquet or tennis balls, but you do have a portable pickleball net system. Plus a racquet, balls and a partner. You literally can set up your own pickleball court and be ready to play in just a few minutes.
If you’re really lucky, you are walking down the street, and you come up on a pickleball court. And no one is playing at the moment. It’s your lucky day!
Fountain Hills has seven public courts, four with lights and three without. The courts are located on Fountain Hills Unified School District property, but the Fountain Hills Pickleball Club takes care of them.
The club has 376 members, led by a seven-member board of directors. Jan Goodman is board chair.
She and senior board member Walt Conway in a recent interview said the sport in Fountain Hills is popular and growing.
“Our membership fees are so reasonable ($50 per year) that it just makes sense for people who want to play to join,” Conway said.
Fees entitle members to play on the seven pickleball-only courts, seven days a week. A waiver releasing Fountain Hills Pickleball Club of all liability is required to join. The local club is the only one providing balls for players.
The pickleball club’s year runs from Sept. 1 through Aug. 31; memberships are not pro-rated if joining after Sept. 1. A $5 drop-in fee is charged for non-members wishing to use the courts.
Fountain Hills Pickleball Club was formed in 2002. It participates in community service activities, including helping with Extended Hands Food Bank, making holiday wreaths and taking part in the annual Volunteer and Organization Expo. Members also hope to work during Make-A-Difference Day in October.
Members hold a “Spring Fling” each year, gathering for a social time at a Golden Eagle Park ramada near the pickleball courts.
Orientation sessions also are available for new members. The clinics are held once a month from October through April for $15.
A Hall of Fame was established this year, with Claire Keyworth being the first inductee. She was instrumental in forming the original club.
Conway said the sport is highly competitive and tournaments are played regularly around the valley, primarily in Surprise.
“We (Fountain Hills) run one tournament each year,” Conway said. “It takes a lot of work to run a tournament, but they are worth it.”
There are three groups of play: beginner, intermediate and advanced mixed. Court play is set up by level, where intermediate play is Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Advanced players meet Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Beginners play on courts when they are available.
Sundays are free and open to the public. There are no rules, and all levels are welcome to play.
“Playing pickleball is just a lot of fun,” Goodman said. “The social part of it is great, too.”
The school board recently approved the replacement of lights on the west courts. It also has approved the building of new courts south of the existing courts.
All maintenance and expenses are the responsibility of the club. The school has been responsible for providing the courts, but it has no financial responsibility toward upkeep.
With the building of the new courts, the club will hold fundraisers. Announcements about those plans will come at a later date.
Information also is available through the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), usapa.org.