The brand-new community of Greystone is set to serve up an all-ages, affordable, and addictive sport.
Greystone of Cochrane is jumping on the explosive trend of pickleball, investing $1.2 Million in new courts to be built in the community to meet the demand for the sport and to create a unique recreational draw for homebuyers.
A 300-member group of devoted players in Cochrane says the game has become popular locally for the same reasons it's taken off elsewhere, said Joanne Ferster, secretary and a spokesperson of the Cochrane Pickleball Club.
"To be honest, pickleball is kind of addictive. People who start playing end up playing a few times, and next thing you know they’re playing four times a week,” she said, adding that the local Cochrane club’s membership exploded from a modest group of 20 players who met for casual matches, to an impressive non-profit organization boasting nearly 300 members today.
“The local pickleball population are an enthusiastic bunch, and passionate about growing it,” said Josh Hagen, vice-president of development at Burnswest Properties Ltd., the developer of Greystone. Additional funds through an Alberta Provincial grant could increase the project size if approved, later this year.
The courts are a fitting addition to Greystone because its expected the community will become home to a wide range of people at every stage of life, he said.
The sport can be played by nearly anyone – and courts with accessible features for the physically challenged are even planned.
Pickleball is nothing new - it was invented to be a children's backyard game in the 1960s. But it has recently seen a resurgence as a focal point in communities, schools, and groups forming to play together.
The sport is seeing broad appeal because it is one of the few activities that generations can challenge one another. It promotes physical fitness, hand-eye coordination, and social interaction.
The location of the future courts fits well with other sporting activities in the community borders, including proximity to the SLS rec centre. They will also be within walking distance to an existing campground near the river, where many of the seasonal renters are retirees and pickleball players.
The four original pickleball courts open now in Cochrane were constructed as a result of the Cochrane Pickleball Club's successful bid in securing grant funding and matching funds from the Town of Cochrane to construct them. Members are excited about adding more at Greystone.
Once people experience the thrill of the game, it often becomes their primary source of recreation, said Ferster.
Devotion to game even shapes players' lifestyle choices, including where to live and real estate purchases, she said. For example, many club members chose their rec property stateside in Arizona because of its proximity to courts, she said.
It's sensible that a developer might choose to add courts to a community as a selling feature and to get people connecting and active and trying something new, she said.
Twenty courts are a tentative target said Hagen, because it would put Cochrane on the map for hosting national tournaments. That number of courts would mean a total project cost of $2.2 million. The Cochrane club is requesting $1 million in grant funding to add to the $1.2 Million the developer is committing.
The potential for Cochrane to host national tournaments is a dream come true for enthusiasts but also a tremendous opportunity for the town.
"We estimate that the nationals bring in over $1 Million to the community that is hosting. It could be a huge financial plus for Cochrane,” said Ferster
But pickleball isn't just about the competition—it's about fostering connections. "The beauty of pickleball is that it transcends generations," Joanne explained. "You'll find grandparents, parents, and young kids all on the court together, enjoying quality time and building lasting memories."
Any number of new courts will help bring a novel outdoor game to more people, including all of Cochrane who will have access to the public facility to be built in the new community.
The easy learning curve of the game of pickleball is one of the main reasons so many people can try the game, and then get hooked.
Unlike other racquet sports that can be intimidating for beginners, players can enjoy the game from the start because the ball and racquet are lightweight and easier to pick up and maneuver. By contrast, tennis racquets and balls are much heavier. Players including youngsters can get frustrated managing heavy racquets without seeing improvements in their skills.
Pickleball equipment is also inexpensive – and courts are accessed for free. Tennis players are even making the switch, enticed by pickleball's welcoming and engaging nature.
"You don't need fancy equipment to get started. A decent racquet can be as little as $20, and balls cost a mere $3.50. Plus, the pickleball courts will be open for public use, so you can gather your friends, head over, and play to your heart's content," said Ferster.
Although pickleball was once seen as a sport enjoyed primarily by retirees, the fact it has captivated all ages means initiatives to introduce the game to schools are well received, Ferster explains.
"We are enthusiastic about pickleball becoming part of the school curriculum. We anticipate that once we add the new courts in Greystone, we will offer free lessons to children and host tournaments to foster a love for the sport from an early age."