Pickleball must be keeping a certain group of Lake County residents young, because no one would guess that many of them are in their 60s and 70s.
Mike Louie, Gurnee resident, said the popularity of the badminton-tennis-ping pong hybrid has been growing rapidly. Warren Township helped out by painting pickleball court lines on a tennis court at Warren Township Center, he said. There's also a court at Advocate Condell Centre Club in Gurnee, 1405 North Hunt Club Road. But with 15 active players, courts in Gurnee are in high demand, he said.
"There is a growing community of active seniors, baby boomers who want to do more than play games at a table," said Louie, who is 70-years old. "But pickleball isn't just for seniors.
"We'd like to have them paint a second court at Warren Township," Louie said. "We're also hoping to get indoor courts at the Hunt Club Community Center or [the park district's newly acquired] Gold's Gym."
Susie Kuruvilla, director of Gurnee Park District, said the district doesn't have any solid plans to add new pickleball courts. "We're considering drawing an indoor court in the gym [at the new Gold's Gym property," Kuruvilla said. "It depends on demand. We have a court just for pickleball in Viking Park built to the side of the shelter near the playground."
Park districts in Zion and Wheeling have 30-40 active pickleball players, Louie said, and he'd like to see that level of activity in Gurnee to spice up competition.
Louie and a group of Gurnee residents gathered to play pickleball at Warren Township's tennis courts, 17801 West Washington Street, on a sunny Wednesday morning.
Pickleball may not sound serious considering it's named after a founder's dog, Pickles, who loved to chase the balls while the game was being developed. But the sport has national and state organizations.
Louie said, "I like it because it's great exercise and it's fun to play because the court is one-third the size of a tennis court. There's lots of movement but it's not as hard on the joints as tennis." Games between singles or doubles are played usually in about 15 minutes to 11 points which can only be scored while serving, he said.
"It can be very competitive or very social. It's for all ages and athletic abilities," Louie said.
Gurnee is home to pickleball champions. Rich Walker, Gurnee resident, and his wife went to the Illinois Senior Olympics in Springfield in September and brought back gold medals for singles and doubles in pickleball.
"I like that it's an aerobic sport that doesn't tire you out and isn't aggressive on the body," said Walker, who is a former director of Zion Park District. "We'd like an indoor pickleball court in Gurnee to support not only existing players, but to publicize the sport and get new players."
Beyond filling demand, another reason pickleball players want more courts in Gurnee is that a modified tennis court is much larger than a pickleball court, so players lose a lot of game time chasing balls, he said.
For 25 years, Felicia Moscatelli taught a pickleball unit in her physical education class at Warren Township High School. As for why she's playing pickleball during her retirement, "It's a sport that is very easy on the body but very competitive, and there's room for socializing," she said.
Lotti Meier, Gurnee resident, is such a fanatic of pickleball that she searches for job opportunities that give her time to play, she said. "I played badmitton for 40 years competitively but I'm getting too old to be good at it so this keeps me happy," said Meier, 61. Meier said pickleball improves mental cognitive skills and reaction skills.
"I'm from Switzerland, and when I was there on vacation last year, I was looking for pickleball. But they have no clue what pickleball is there," she said, laughing.
As for other pickleball hot spots in Lake County, Louie said he's played at Mallard Ridge Park in Lindenhurst and Zion Park District's Leisure Community Center in the winter where there are four courts indoors.
For more information, visit www.northernillinoispickleball.com.
PICKLEBALL COURTS GUIDE
Wondering where you can play pickleball in Lake County? Here's a guide. Call locations for information on pricing and equipment provided.
Advocate Condell Centre Club
1405 Hunt Club Road, Gurnee
Warren Township Center
17801 W. Washington Street, Gurnee
Advocate Condell Centre Club
200 W. Golf Road, Libertyville
Libertyville Sports Complex
1950 N. Highway 45, Libertyville
Lindenhurst Park District
2200 E. Grass Lake Road, Lindenhurst
Mundelein Park and Recreation Center
1401 N. Midlothian Road, Mundelein
Zion Park District's Leisure Community Center
2400 Dowie Memorial