CEDAR FALLS — An outdoor pickleball complex could be coming to Cedar Falls later this year.

The City Council recently approved a plan to locate new pickleball courts at Orchard Hill Park, off Rownd Street and adjacent to Orchard Hill Elementary School. A couple of tennis courts there already have been lined for pickleball.

The project has been moved up to this summer due to private funds raised.

“The pickleball group (Cedar Falls Pickleball Club) did actually fund raise to move this project up,” Jennifer Rodenbeck, director of finance and business operations for the city of Cedar Falls, told members of the council and the Cedar Falls Planning and Zoning Commission. “People really wanted that to happen and took it upon themselves to raise the money.”

Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court with a tennis net, large plastic paddles and a pickleball, which looks similar to a wiffle ball. The game is faster than badminton, provides exercise without straining the joints and even allows for conversation during competition. The activity has grown in popularity in Cedar Falls among seniors and with students who play in physical education classes.

The project would be paid for with $50,000 the pickleball group raised along with private grants. The city would finance $50,000 with general obligation bonds and $50,000 is being sought from the Black Hawk County Gaming Association, which may make a decision on that request next month. The association allocates a portion of Isle Casino Hotel Waterloo adjusted gross revenues for community projects.

A new location within the park was proposed and approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission and the City Council.

The initial proposal was to eliminate two tennis courts at the site and replace them with pickleball courts, said Mark Ripplinger, the city’s director of municipal operations and programs. But concerns about losing the tennis courts moved the new courts east of an existing restroom.

A basketball court at the park would have to be moved, “but this provides the opportunity to update that amenity as well since the surface is currently uneven asphalt,” Ripplinger said.

Pending approval of gaming funds, “it is believed this project could start construction in later summer or fall 2018,” Ripplinger wrote.

The pickleball group currently plays at the Cedar Falls Recreation Center and outdoor tennis courts when weather permits. It has also played on Peet Junior High School courts and at the Cedar Valley SportsPlex in downtown Waterloo.

Council member Susan deBuhr praised the private fundraising, as well as staff and pickleball proponents for reworking the plan to retain and resurface the tennis courts and rebuild the basketball court in addition to building pickleball courts. Ripplinger noted the tennis court work would cost about an additional $25,000 and be done in 2019.

Pickleball club members have said the outdoor pickleball complex would be the largest of its kind within 50 miles and be an attraction for visitors to the city for tournaments and fun.

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