RALEIGH, N.C. – Downtown Raleigh, known for its bustling events, is taking a new sporting twist as it endeavors to become a community hub for all. In a strategic move to bring people together and enhance the city’s appeal, Raleigh’s City Plaza on Fayetteville St. has introduced a vibrant addition – a pop-up pickleball court. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance, in collaboration with the city, has set up this free-to-use amenity, inviting locals to engage in America’s fastest growing sport.
A Social Oasis Amidst Office Buildings
Mary Sell, Planning and Transportation Manager at Downtown Raleigh Alliance, expressed her excitement about the initiative. “We thought it’d be a wonderful way to activate the plaza and provide something fun for people to do on their lunch hour, or during the morning time, whenever they like to come down,” Sell said. The concept is not new to City Plaza, which has previously hosted ice skating and mini soccer. However, the introduction of pickleball aligns with a broader vision – to transform the downtown area into a social oasis, where the community can gather, connect, and enjoy recreational activities.
Ken Bowers, Raleigh’s Assistant Director of Planning and Development, emphasized the importance of creating a space that competes with the comforts of home, especially post-COVID. “You know, the office has to now compete with your extra bedroom at home, and so you need something that you can’t get at home, which I think is that outdoor experience, that space, that social place where people can come together,” Bowers said.
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City Plaza: A Canvas for Improvement
Raleigh’s City Council has allocated $400,000 in COVID relief funds to enhance City Plaza, based on recommendations from the Downtown Raleigh Alliance’s study on reviving the downtown area. The proposed improvements include retractable shading to ensure a comfortable environment during scorching summers, an upgraded speaker system for events, and improved outdoor furniture for visitors to relax. The vision is clear – to create a dynamic space that caters to diverse interests and fosters a sense of community.
Pickleball Enthusiasm Grows
Ashton Fisher, a downtown resident, lauded the initiative. “Anything we can do to activate City Plaza is a great asset for the city, I think,” Fisher said. Even though she has never played pickleball before, she is open to the idea of trying it out. “I would love to learn to play pickleball,” Fisher said enthusiastically. Her sentiment resonates with many locals, indicating a growing interest in the sport.
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Embracing a Healthier Lifestyle
The introduction of pickleball not only promotes community engagement but also encourages physical activity. Pickleball, often described as a combination of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, is accessible to people of all ages and fitness levels. Its growing popularity can be attributed to its simplicity and inclusivity. By providing a space for pickleball in the heart of the city, Raleigh is not just offering a recreational activity; it is promoting a healthier lifestyle for its residents.