PICKLEBALL PLAYERS IN Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, are accustomed to spending long winters playing in crowded school gyms and church basements, but now they have a better option. Thanks to recent renovations—completed in record time—at the Saskatoon Kinsmen/Henk Ruys Soccer Centre, one indoor soccer field has been updated with markings for eight pickleball courts.
Up to this point, Saskatchewanians have faced a lack of available courts and, of course, an all-too-narrow window for warm-weather play: In the depths of winter, this central Saskatchewan city of 331,000 gets a mere eight hours of daylight, and temperatures are known to dip as low as -22ºF.
The elements haven’t lessened the local demand for pickleball action, but without a venue dedicated to the game, “players ended up being scattered in small spaces across the city, waiting long periods to get on a court. More important, the concept of a pickleball social hub with an active community atmosphere was lost,” says Marilyn Barrington, president of Saskatoon Pickleball Inc. “We opened a beautiful new outdoor facility last June, but with our long winters, there was a growing demand for indoor pickleball courts.”
Community enthusiasm notwithstanding, the exorbitant cost of building from scratch led Saskatoon Pickleball Inc. to consider any existing sports facilities that could possibly accommodate pickleball play. The Saskatoon Kinsmen/Henk Ruys Soccer Centre had potential, but its sports-tile flooring proved a problem. “The ball play was inconsistent, with many dead spots,” explains Jodi Blackwell, CEO of Saskatoon Soccer Centre Inc. “We had also installed a sprung-flooring system some years ago, and any new solution had to work with that system as well. We finally found the answer in a poured-rubber product that could be installed directly over the top of the sprung-flooring system.”
“Saskatoon Pickleball Inc. is a relatively new club, but we are experiencing a sharp upward trajectory in the number of players enjoying the sport,” Barrington says, adding that the organization will now be able to meet the area’s rising demand for pickleball lessons, player development, and more. “Players will no longer be required to travel to surrounding communities to join pickleball mixers,” she says. “They will be able to play indoors, right here in Saskatoon.”
This project, and the partnership between Saskatoon Pickleball Inc. and Saskatoon Soccer Centre Inc., should have a major impact on the pickleball scene in the city. The new-look facility is set to serve members as a hub for the sport’s competitive and social sides, offering classes and a mezzanine lounge overlooking the courts for spectating and post-game mingling. It promises to be a haven for Saskatoon’s stalwart players and newcomers to the game alike, no matter their ranking. As of press time, it was even slated to host the Pickleball Saskatchewan Provincials in August, giving both organizations the opportunity to introduce athletes from around the province to their handiwork.