Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States. This paddle sport combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong into a fun game for all ages and skill levels. As pickleball’s popularity explodes, many players wonder if they can use existing tennis courts to play. The answer is yes! Tennis courts are ideally suited for pickleball. With a few minor modifications, a tennis court can easily and affordably be converted into a multi-use facility to support both tennis and pickleball play.
- What is Pickleball?
- Why Tennis Courts Work for Pickleball
- How to Convert a Tennis Court for Pickleball
- Equipment Needed for Pickleball on Tennis Courts
- Where to Play Pickleball on Tennis Courts
- Benefits of Playing Pickleball on Tennis Courts
- Potential Issues with Pickleball on Tennis Courts
- Pickleball Etiquette on Shared Tennis Courts
- The Future Looks Bright for Pickleball Growth!
What is Pickleball?
For those new to the sport, pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with a slightly modified tennis net. Players use solid paddles to hit a plastic ball over the net, similar to tennis. Pickleball can be played in singles or doubles format.
The court is 20 feet wide by 44 feet long for both singles and doubles play – approximately 1/3 the size of a tennis court. The net height is lower than in tennis, hanging at 36 inches at the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle. This accommodates the underhand serve and lower bounce of the pickleball.
Pickleball was invented in 1965 in Washington state as a backyard pastime, but has now become a serious competitive sport with professional tournaments. Part of pickleball’s appeal is that it can be played as recreation or at a high skill level. Doubles matches are the most common format since the court is small enough for players of all ages and mobility levels.
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Why Tennis Courts Work for Pickleball
Tennis courts are ideal spaces for pickleball for several reasons:
Large Playing Surface
- At 36 feet wide by 78 feet long, a tennis court provides ample extra room along the sidelines and baseline for pickleball. This allows tennis and pickleball to co-exist.
- Tennis courts are built with the same durable asphalt or concrete surface as a dedicated pickleball court. The smooth, even surface allows for good ball bounce.
- Permanent pickleball courts are 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. A tennis court width of 36 feet is more than enough room. Length can be adjusted.
- Tennis courts already have the essential infrastructure in place for pickleball – a flat surface, fencing, nets, and lighting. This makes set-up easy.
- There are over 30,000 public tennis courts in the US. Converting even a small percentage would exponentially increase pickleball play access. Private tennis courts could also be utilized.
As long as the tennis court surface is in good shape, it will provide an excellent place for recreational or competitive pickleball. The two sports can live side by side!
How to Convert a Tennis Court for Pickleball
Small modifications can transform a tennis court into dual-use for both tennis and pickleball. Here are some tips:
Lower the Net Height
- Regulation pickleball nets are 36 inches high at the sidelines and 34 inches in the middle. Work with the facility to see if the tennis net can be lowered and centered to 34 inches. This may require a portable net system designed for multi-sport use.
Tape or Paint Pickleball Lines
- Use painter’s tape or regular sports court paint to mark the pickleball court lines. Make sure to use dimensions of 20 feet wide by 44 feet long. Paint will last longer but check with the facility before painting permanent pickleball lines. Tape can always be removed.
Adjust Net Posts
- Pickleball nets are 20 feet wide so tennis net posts may need to be moved slightly inward to allow for this narrower width. This will keep the ball in play.
Account for Doubles Play
- Since most pickleball is doubles, painting lines for two adjacent courts surrounded by extra room on the tennis court is ideal. This allows singles or doubles play.
Store Portable Net System
- For a tennis court used frequently for both sports, a portable pickleball net system can be assembled and taken down as needed. Make sure to store safely off court when not in use.
These simple infrastructure tweaks will extend maximum use out of a single tennis court space for both tennis and the up-and-coming sport of pickleball.
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Equipment Needed for Pickleball on Tennis Courts
To play pickleball on an existing tennis court, you just need a few pieces of portable equipment:
- Portable Pickleball Net – A tennis court will require a freestanding, adjustable pickleball net rather than a permanent net. These start around $100.
- Paddles – Pickleball paddles run $50 to over $100+ for more advanced graphite models. Many rec players use inexpensive wooden paddles.
- Balls – Indoor and outdoor pickleballs are available starting around $10 for a 6-pack.
- Court Lines – Painter’s tape, chalk, or paint can create pickleball lines. Tape is the cheapest and easiest option.
- Net Posts – You may need portable net posts which slide over the tennis net posts if they can’t be moved in or removed.
With this basic equipment, you can line off pickleball courts on an existing tennis court and enjoy games with family and friends. No major construction is required!
Where to Play Pickleball on Tennis Courts
Tennis courts at all types of public and private facilities can potentially be used for pickleball:
- Check with your county or city parks department about converting some public tennis courts to multi-use with pickleball lining. This allows more people access to play.
- K-12 schools often have unused tennis courts that would be ideal for community pickleball, especially in neighborhoods lacking parks.
- Indoor and outdoor courts at YMCAs, recreation centers, senior centers, churches, etc. Make great multi-use facilities.
Condo & Apartment Complexes
- On-site tennis courts are perfect for residents who want to play pickleball close to home.
Golf & Country Clubs
- Pickleball is a popular activity at active adult communities and country clubs. Designate courts for both sports.
Resorts & RV Parks
- Painted lines allow vacationers to enjoy pickleball without much added infrastructure cost.
Anywhere there are underutilized tennis courts could potentially offer pickleball as well!
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Benefits of Playing Pickleball on Tennis Courts
Beyond using existing infrastructure, what are the advantages of opening up tennis courts for pickleball play?
Promotes Physical Activity
- More courts for pickleball gives people of all ages, abilities, and income levels a place to be active.
- Using existing tennis courts is exponentially cheaper than building new dedicated pickleball facilities. Municipalities save big.
Allows Versatile Use
- Courts lined for both sports accommodates needs of tennis and pickleball players.
Extends Court Lifespan
- Pickleball causes less wear than tennis, reducing maintenance costs on aging courts
- Shared use courts foster friendships between tennis and pickleball players.
Allows Access to More Players
- Pickleballers far outnumber tennis players. Shared courts meet demand better.
Revitalizes Underused Courts
- Turning vacant tennis courts into lively pickleball hubs prevents waste.
Repurposing idle tennis infrastructure for the pickleball explosion is a win-win. Courts can easily accommodate both sports.
Potential Issues with Pickleball on Tennis Courts
While tennis courts work extremely well for casual and recreational pickleball, there are a few factors to consider:
- The lower pickleball net can interfere with tennis play. Adjustable or removable nets are best for multi-use courts.
Different Court Surfaces
- Tennis is suited to a variety of surfaces like clay or grass that don’t work as well for pickleball. Stick with asphalt or concrete.
Fewer Permanent Facilities
- Serious pickleball tournaments are still best suited to courts with permanent pickleball lines and fixtures.
Less Space for Tennis
- Too many pickleball lines can crowd out tennis players on a shared court. Mindful design is required.
- Pickleball’s explosive growth could make court time hard to come by as more players compete for shared use.
Potential Court Conflicts
- Different player profiles in each sport may lead to disagreements over court allocation unless a clear schedule is set.
With smart planning and scheduling, most obstacles can be overcome to allow tennis and pickleball to thrive side-by-side
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Pickleball Etiquette on Shared Tennis Courts
To help both groups of athletes happily co-exist on multi-use courts, pickleball players should follow rules of etiquette:
- Only use allocated pickleball courts, not ones reserved for tennis play at that time.
- Take care not to damage tennis court surfaces or lines with pickleball gear or play.
- Help unroll and roll back tarps used to cover tennis lines for pickleball.
- Make sure gates are latched after entering and leaving to keep the courts secure.
- Keep noise levels respectful of neighboring homes and other players
- If others are waiting, limit play to 45 minutes to 1 hour max for fairness.
- Leave courts free of trash, gear bags, etc after using.
Following basic court etiquette along with any posted rules will help foster goodwill between tennis and pickleball communities sharing space.
The Future Looks Bright for Pickleball Growth!
Pickleball’s popularity has exploded from a few backyard games in the 1960s to over 4.8 million US players today. This amateur sport has professionalized with televised tournaments, sponsors, and serious prize money. At its current pace, pickleball is projected to surpass tennis participation within the next few years.
Limited availability of dedicated pickleball courts has not slowed demand. Tennis courts are the perfect solution. They provide the ideal surface and infrastructure for casual and competitive play. Minor modifications allow quick conversion to a shared multi-use court.
Tennis and pickleball can thrive side by side with smart planning. Existing tennis courts offer an easy way to meet the needs of millions of eager new pickleball players. The future looks bright for America’s fastest growing sport!