A Relish For Senior Programming

A year ago in Peoria, Ariz., Mike Pagliarulo and a few senior citizens obtained permission from their homeowners’ association to add chalk lines and portable nets to a full-sized basketball court to make three pickleball courts. After six weeks, the group included more than 20 regular players; they asked further permission to replace the fading chalk lines with semi-permanent paint. After nine months and another upgrade, 97 enthusiastic players were using the courts

If you have underutilized tennis courts–or basketball courts–consider turning to an up-and-coming sport that is uniquely suited to add new life to old courts.

An Introduction

Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with a perforated plastic ball similar to a Wiffle ball, and wood or composite paddles about twice the size of Ping-Pong paddles. It can be played indoors or outdoors, with singles or doubles. Special apparel is not needed–merely something comfortable and appropriate for a court sport.

Although pickleball can be played by all ages, its popularity is really driven by seniors. The reasons they enjoy it so much are:

• With plenty of free time, they can use the courts in peak as well as off-peak hours.

• As many of them are former tennis players, they find pickleball a good “step-down” sport when tennis becomes too demanding.

• The game is easy to learn, so new players can be introduced to it and playing in minutes.

• More people are able to play at once compared to the number in a traditional tennis match.


There are two paths to convert existing courts to pickleball courts–shared use and dedicated use.

For shared use, simply add pickleball lines to an existing court so players of both sports can use the facility. This may cause some initial confusion, but players quickly become accustomed to the lines.

The simplest way to add one pickleball court is to lower the tennis net to 34 inches in the center. Hold-down arrangements can be used at the ends of the net to bring it down to the correct height at the sidelines (36 inches).

Alternatively, a center strap may be used to bring the net down to the proper height. If the tension on the net cord is very tight, the tension might have to be loosened slightly by adjusting the ratchet on the net post. Lines can be chalked, taped, or painted on the court for pickleball.

Map It Out

Figure 1 shows two pickleball courts laid out on a tennis court. Since a standard tennis court pad is 60 feet by 120 feet, and the minimum recommended size for a pickleball court is 30 feet by 60 feet, it is exactly one-fourth the size of a standard tennis court pad. Therefore, it is possible to put four pickleball courts in the same space as one tennis court; an exception to this is if the corners of the court are angled, which is done on some tennis courts.

If the corners are angled, then two courts will fit very nicely as shown. If the conversion is temporary or the court continues to be used for tennis, portable net stands can be used for the pickleball courts, and the tennis net can be left in place to serve as a backstop.

Figure 2 shows four pickleball courts on a tennis court. Note the position of the pickleball courts has shifted 2 feet to allow for the angled corners. That leaves only 6 feet between the pickleball baseline and the tennis net–a little tight–but it will work in a pinch.

If the tennis court does not have angled corners, adjust the courts 2 feet so there is an 8-foot distance between the pickleball baseline and the backstops. Note how the lines are made to coincide as much as possible with the tennis court lines in order to minimize line confusion. Also, be aware that this layout does not allow room for fences between the side-by-side courts.

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