Who uses a smallish racquet to slap a wiffle ball around over part of a tennis court?

People of widely varying ages and physical abilities, that’s who. And right now, Payette’s Kiwanis Park offers the only such game in town, or in the entire Western Treasure Valley, for that matter.

Yes, Fruitland may have a reputation for often getting the best of rival Payette in athletics, but Payette recently became first out of the gates in providing a court to play pickleball. Fruitland’s Mesa Park may have pickleball soon, though.

A little over a month ago, a Payette couple, Jim and Mari Anderson, received the Payette City Council’s permission to devote two evenings per week during the summer to play pickleball on one of the two tennis courts at Kiwanis Park. The city further cooperated by painting blue pickleball court lines on both sides of the tennis court net, forming two complete pickleball courts.

The Andersons, for their part, offered to furnish the racquets and balls for anyone who showed up to play pickleball on the designated evernings, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 9 p.m. The Andersons also own two portable pickleball nets with posts, which they set up routinely to complete the two courts.

To help lend the Kiwanis Park pickleball experience a more fun and casual atmosphere, as opposed to something that’s more intensely competitive and serious, the Andersons bring their portable music player as well.

On Thursday night in dappled shade, while strains of some of the softer rock classics filled the air at unobtrusively moderate volume, Kathy Patrick, a sixty-something Payette city councilor and executive director of the Payette Senior Center, darted about over the court half she shared with doubles partner Mari Anderson, returning shots from two school-age girls from Nampa.

Jim Anderson said another city councilor, Craig Jensen, had started to play the low-impact sport a couple of weeks earlier, and the reason he wasn’t back again this night was that he was away on vacation.

When the Andersons presented their proposal for regular pickleball nights to the City Council late in May, Mari Anderson explained that she was originally from Payette, but she had only recently returned to the community after spending most of her adult life in Hawaii.

A decidedly Hawaiian influence is evident in what the Andersons are providing.

“We love Payette, and we want to give something back to Payette,” Mari Anderson told councilors. “One of the things we got into in Hawaii is pickleball. It’s kind of a combination of ping-pong and tennis. All ages can play it. We had people who were ninety years old playing it in Kauai, and little kids playing it.

“It’s just very inclusive,” Mari continued. “You don’t have to be a super athlete to play it, and it’s great for exercise, mental acuity, social interaction.” She said the couple would be happy to “teach people how to play pickleball.”

Added Jim Anderson, “It’s a game that everybody can play. We have been working with the [Payette] Boys and Girls Club, teaching the kids pickleball. I’m so impressed with that group, I’m impressed with the Miracle Field out here. … Everything is perfect and is working well for the kids. What this more applies to is adults, because … adults go home and sit in front of the TV and don’t do anything. There’s no activity I see for the adults, unless you’re a golfer.”

Pickleball, he said, “is the fastest-growing sport in the country.”

While playing pickleball, Mari said, “you laugh a lot. It’s so inclusive. I’ve played competitive sports for a long time, [but now] I like to play for fun, and to encourage people. … You’d see people come out that had injuries or had never played a sport or anything athletic — come out and start playing and start having success.” Playing pickleball, “you feel really good about yourself.”

In Fruitland, pickleball enthusiast Jim Burt has spoken with the Fruitland City Council a couple of times this year about offering pickleball at multiple locations, starting with one of the tennis courts at Mesa Park, which the council has already approved for pickleball lines. Additionally, Burt proposes offering pickleball at the sports complex which is in the early stages of being planned on acreage adjoining the city water plant.

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