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The original item was published from 7/25/2019 2:17:10 PM to 8/11/2019 12:00:00 AM.

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Parks & Recreation

Posted on: July 25, 2019

[ARCHIVED] SportsPlex Pickleball Grand Opening scheduled for August 10


Opelika Parks and Recreation has completed the construction on 12 new pickleball courts at the Opelika SportsPlex and Aquatics Center, and a ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, August 10 at 10 a.m. The ribbon cutting ceremony will be followed by a demonstration of a highly competitive match, instruction opportunities for beginner players and free play for all.

This new facility is now one of the premier pickleball facilities in the nation, offering thoughtful amenities that are not often found at other tournaments. All 12 courts are individually fenced allowing for tournament style play, and the entire facility is covered by a large canopy, offering shade from the elements. Because the facility is situated directly behind the Opelika SportsPlex, players have access to ample parking, bathrooms, lockers, showers and concessions.

“Since we now have a premier pickleball facility, it is inevitable that we host 3-4 big tournaments and several small tournaments each year,” said Sam Bailey, director of Opelika Parks and Recreation. “With the larger tournaments we would expect 250-300 players and the smaller tournaments would have about 150 players.”

This is good news for economic impact in Opelika. According to Anthony Terling, sports and event development manager for Auburn-Opelika Tourism, even a simple weekend tournament would generate a significant amount of economic impact to the Opelika-Auburn area. The governing body for pickleball (USAPA) estimates individual participant spending in a tournament-style event of $139 per day.

“Auburn-Opelika Tourism is thrilled to be a part of the grand opening of the Opelika Pickleball Facility,” said Terling. “This state-of-the-art facility is a great new amenity for our local pickleball enthusiasts. We look forward to partnering with Opelika Parks and Recreation and the Opelika-Auburn Pickleball Club on hosting future tournaments that will impact our local economy while giving us a chance to show off our beautiful community.

Bailey became interested in pickleball 11 years ago at the urging of longtime SportsPlex member and pickleball player, Bob Huskey. As pickleball popularity increased over the years, Opelika city leadership began to take notice of the sport. Last year plans were finally put into motion to build a facility, but the city wanted to build something that would set them apart from other facilities.

Through research and player input, plans were drawn up that would put Opelika at forefront of facility design.

“The city of Opelika has always been strong supporters of recreation, and by building this facility they have continued that tradition,” said Bailey. “Opelika certainly has a pickleball facility to be proud of and we hope to show it off in future tournaments and events.”

Construction on the pickleball facility was scheduled for last Fall, but due to a shortage of materials for the roof, construction on the site did not begin until mid-January. After that first setback, the project remained on schedule and the courts were opened to the public on July 12.

The courts have already seen a lot of play. On the opening day more than 50 players came out to test the courts out. Since that time the Opelika-Auburn Pickleball Club has hosted daily games at the courts for its members and those interested in learning the sport.

Pickleball combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, and because it is played on a smaller court and uses a slower moving plastic ball with holes, pickleball can accommodate players of all ages and skill levels. Although it is easy to learn, pickleball can develop into a fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.

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