January 26, 2008 in Voices

Players having a ball

Valerie Putnam Correspondent
Photos by J. BART RAYNIAK photo

The Spokane Valley Senior Center pickleball players may rest between games but engage in spirited conversation and actively discuss the rules of the game. Below, Elisabeth Lewis keeps her eye on the ball during a match. Lewis and her husband, Hugh, were introduced to the game last June at the Senior Olympics in Louisville, Ky.
(Full-size photo)

What is Valley HUB?

» The Spokane Valley HUB is a nonprofit regional sports center. The 66,000-square-foot facility opened its doors on Oct. 27, 2007, in the building previously operated as Sports USA.

» ”We really are a regional community rec facility,” HUB director Jon Delonas said. “We cater to everybody and anybody. We want people to feel comfortable here. No memberships.”

» The facility can have numerous sporting events going on simultaneously with five regulation size basketball courts. Using curtains, the courts can be transformed into 10 volleyball or badminton courts. It can also accommodate indoor soccer practice, kickball and dodge ball. In addition, as the third largest venue in Spokane County, it is also available for trade shows and other nonsporting events.

» ”On a standard week, we draw 5,000 people through our doors,” Delonas said.

» For the HUB to become a permanent community center, organizers must raise $3.9 million by the end of May. That covers purchase of the building and 3.2 acres of adjacent property.

» Supporters want to raise an additional $1.1 million to cover interior and exterior improvements, as well as, operation of the building.

» To achieve this goal, they are asking for community support.

» ”Our goal is to get about $1 million from the community,” Delonas said. “We feel comfortable getting the other $4 million from grants and other sources.”

» One way to help is join the The HUB Club. Organizers are asking 1,000 people to donate $1,000. Every person, family, or company that joins the club will have their name inscribed on the HUB Club board near the entrance.

» Courtside advertising is also available and anyone interested can pickup a packet at the HUB.

» For more information, visit www.valleyHUB.org, or call Jon Delonas or Audra Hess at 927-0602.

– Valerie Putnam

The game that sounds like something found in a grocery aisle is now at the Spokane Valley HUB.

Pickleball, a game that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis, is played every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon at the 66,000-square-foot facility.

“The game has no resemblance with pickles, that’s for sure,” said John Russell, who so far has played it twice at the HUB.

This twice-a-week offering resulted from Valley residents Elisabeth and Hugh Lewis’ desire to find a place to play after being introduced to it last June at the Senior Olympics in Louisville, Ky. “They were demonstrating the game there,” said Hugh Lewis, who along with his wife won a gold medal in archery at the Olympics. “We got to play and really enjoyed it.”

Unable to locate a permanent place to play, Elisabeth Lewis arranged to have chalk lines added to the tennis courts at Valley Mission Park last October.

“We played on Wednesdays, weather permitting,” she said. “We got to play several afternoons.”

In November, Spokane Valley Parks and Recreation and Valley Senior Center formed an agreement with the HUB allowing the couple to start the bi-weekly pickleball sessions.

“They welcomed us with open arms,” she said. “It’s a gorgeous facility.”

Easy to learn, pickleball provides fun and exercise for players of all ages. The smaller court enables senior citizens to get a workout without overexertion.

“There is not as much running as tennis,” Elisabeth said. “It’s a lot easier for seniors.”

“It’s great exercise,” said Gene Werden, a recent pickleball recruit. “And good for hand-and-eye coordination.”

There are currently a dozen people signed up to play and organizers hope to see participation double in the near future.

Elisabeth Lewis sometimes recruits by wearing her “Ask me about pickleball” T-shirt, purchased from the United States Pickleball Association Web site.

“Most people when they read it smile,” she said. “And they do ask, ‘OK, what is pickleball?’ ”

She told Dewey Peterson about pickleball while playing table tennis one morning at the Spokane Valley Senior Center. He decided to try the game that same afternoon.

“I had never heard of pickleball,” said Peterson just before beginning his second week of play. “I was invited to play so I decided to give it a try. It’s fun.”

The game got its unusual name by the antics of a cocker spaniel named Pickles, who liked to hide in the bushes while waiting for a chance to steal away with an errant shot. Pickles was the dog of Joel Pritchard, the late congressman from Bainbridge Island. Mark Friedenberg’s book, “The Official Pickleball Handbook,” recounts Pritchard’s invention of the game. In 1965, Pritchard along with his friend Bill Bell created the game in his backyard to provide a sport for the entire family.

The game can be played in singles, doubles, or mixed doubles, using two or four players on a small 20-by-40 foot court. Lightweight paddles, slightly larger than a ping-pong paddle, volley the perforated wiffle type ball back and forth.

Scoring is similar to badminton where only the serving side gains points. The ball is served underhanded and each side must allow the ball to bounce once before the shot is returned. After the double bounce, the ball can be either volleyed or played off the bounce. The first to eleven points wins.

“It’s a great way to stay healthy and active,” said Elisabeth Lewis said. “If you’re joining us for the first time, don’t sweat it. We’re still learning. If you want to watch the ball go by that is OK.”

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email