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The City Journals

Pickle This: Outdoor Pickleball Courts a Smashing Success

Jul 29, 2016 09:10AM ● By Sarah Almond

By Sarah Almond

Cottonwood Heights, Utah - In March 2016, the Cottonwood Heights Recreation Center added another amenity to its register: four outdoor pickleball courts.

“Since we’ve gotten the outdoor courts, there’s been a lot of new people coming to try it out,” Pat Schaefer said, who’s been playing pickleball since the Cottonwood Heights Rec Center established several indoor courts nearly three years ago.

The oddly named game started in the summer of 1965 in Bainbridge Island, WA, when three fathers created a mini tennis-like sport that everyone in their family could enjoy. From young children to aging grandparents, the sport provided the families with a fun, all-inclusive competition.

Pickles, the family dog, would chase after the ball and hide in the bushes. The children began calling the made-up game Pickle’s ball, which was later shortened to the namesake pickleball.  

Today there are over 2,000 official pickleball courts located around the country, and nearly 20 of these are scattered around Salt Lake County alone.

“Pickleball is probably the fastest growing sport in the United States and especially here in Utah,” city council member Mike Peterson said.

Before retiring from a decade-long career as the director of Cottonwood Heights Parks and Recreation Service Area in spring 2016, Peterson approached Cottonwood Heights Service Area, Salt Lake County, and the city of Cottonwood Heights with a proposal to build four outdoor pickleball courts. All entities jumped at the opportunity to help fund the initiative.

“We started pickleball indoors about three years ago and it just went crazy,” Peterson said. “We started with one court, grew to two, and then three and even then it was filling up so fast with people waiting for a turn to play.”

The outdoor courts, located on the southeast corner of the rec center, are open daily from 5 a.m. to dusk and are typically in use at all times. While several young residents make use of the courts, the new amenity is favored by Cottonwood Heights’ senior community.

“Golf and tennis — those are lifetime sports, and we needed another lifetime sport for the baby boomers,” Peterson said. “People like myself who have played tennis their whole life find it getting more and more difficult with age, but pickleball is something I can do without being overly aggressive and still get a great workout.”

Peterson, along with dozens of other senior residents, takes to the courts several times a week to exercise his skills and socialize with what’s growing to be an impressive group of lively, passionate pickleball enthusiasts.

“We have a great group — just a fabulous group,” Fran Jensen, a frequent player on the Cottonwood courts, said. “We have a group of people who play for the fun of it, and others who play for the exercise. It’s not really competitive, just a fun group.”

With the overwhelming support and participation in the sport, Peterson and fellow pickleball connoisseurs expect nothing but a bright future for the nation’s fastest growing sport and Cottonwood Heights’ latest trend.  

Pickleball 101: Basic Rules and Scoring

Rules and scoring information from give a simple overview of how to play one of Cottonwood Heights’ most popular sports.


– The ball is served diagonally to the opponent’s service court underhanded without bouncing it off the court.

– Points are scored by the serving side only and occur when the opponent faults (fails to return the ball, hits ball out of bounds, etc.). The server continues to serve, alternating service courts, until the serving side faults. The first side to score 11 points, leading by at least a two-point margin, wins. If both sides are tied, then play continues until one side wins by two points.

– Double bounce rule: Following the serve, each side must make at least one ground-stroke, prior to volleying the ball (hitting it before it has bounced).

– Non-volley zone: A player cannot volley a ball while standing within the non-volley zone.


– Points are scored only by the serving team.

– Games are normally played to 11 points, win by two.

– Tournament games may be to 15 or 21, win by two.

– When the serving team’s score is even (0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10) the player who was the first server in the game for that team will be in the right-side court when serving or receiving; when odd (1, 3, 5, 7, 9) that player will be in the left-side court when serving or receiving.