When we recently moved to Aiken, we were surprised that no one in Aiken had heard of pickleball (it has been around for 50 years, but not widespread – now recognized as the fastest growing sport in the country). We approached the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department to use one of the public tennis courts to play on, and the department’s Director Glenn Parker and Jeff Metz, Athletic/Tourism Director, were skeptical about our request. To their credit, and our everlasting gratitude, they kept open minds while we explained the sport – even the goofy name. Soon, Jessica Campbell at the H. Odell Weeks Center was working closely with us and provided a gym for three indoor courts. The City also converted some little-used space into 3 outdoor courts. The number of indoor courts has grown to five. Last weekend’s USA Pickleball Association sanctioned tournament, hosted by the City of Aiken and attended by 109 players from 10 states, proves the sport continues to grow locally. Enthusiasts play several times a week and even medaled in the tournament. Nelson Spitnale and Dick Keeler won Bronze in the Men’s Doubles 3.5 skill level, 65 plus age group. The tournament was a hit with visiting players who promised to return, should we host another event. The weekend was a success due to the hard work of Parks, Recreation and Tourism staff and volunteers from Aiken’s own “Pickledillys. Thank you, everyone.
Richard Pearce, Aiken City Manager, graciously welcomed the 170 people who attended a pre-tournament social Friday night at the City Municipal Building. His comments reflected the extraordinary level of support and encouragement by our city and is proof Aiken continues to be a leader in innovation and change. We hope this sport continues to grow and that Aiken benefits from the influx of participants in future tournaments.
Mike and Loretta Beckner