By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Take a drive on 42nd Place and you’ll likely see people running around and using paddles to swat at something flying in the air.
No, it’s not Sea Isle City’s new mosquito control program.
Seven new asphalt courts that opened on 42nd Place over the Memorial Day weekend are Sea Isle’s new epicenter for the pickleball community.
City officials will celebrate the official grand opening of the courts with a ribbon-cutting ceremony 11 a.m. Tuesday led by Mayor Leonard Desiderio.
“They are extraordinarily popular. We’ve received a great deal of positive feedback,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said of the initial public reaction to the courts. “Every time I go by, it seems people are enjoying the courts.”
The courts are free to the public and available on a first come, first served basis.
In addition to the seven courts, the nearly $180,000 project includes new fencing, benches and trash cans. A tall, chain-link fence with a black covering surrounds the site.
Sea Isle has placed whimsically designed signs at the courts as part of a new city program featuring family friendly photo-op spots around town, including recreation sites and the oceanfront Promenade.
Tourists and residents taking photos or shooting video in front of the signs are urged to post them on social media using the city’s hashtag #PlaySIC. The photo-op program will be launched Tuesday during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The city built seven new pickleball courts to meet heavier demand for a fast-growing sport that is particularly popular with baby boomers and senior citizens. U.S. Census figures show that the average age in Sea Isle is 63 years old, which is right in the sweet spot for pickleball players.
During its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, City Council is expected to approve a new contract with a company that will offer pickleball and tennis lessons to the public as part of Sea Isle’s summer recreation program. Details can be found at Camps & Clinics | Sea Isle City (visitsicnj.com).
Pickleball combines elements of tennis, ping-pong and badminton. Less demanding than tennis, pickleball is a relatively low impact sport, which makes it appealing to senior citizens and baby boomers. Sea Isle’s courts also attract young pickleball players.
The sport is played on a 20-foot-wide and 40-foot-long court about the same size as a doubles badminton court. Players use a modified tennis-style net, wooden or graphite paddles and a lightweight, plastic ball.
After a citywide search for a suitable location, Sea Isle officials decided to build the courts on 42nd Place across from the municipal marina on what used to be a parking lot comprised of old clam shells.
Sea Isle built its first two permanent pickleball courts in 2017 on West Jersey Avenue, across the street from the city’s playground and recreation complex on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
Demand is high for the courts at the West Jersey courts, especially during summer mornings.
Altogether, the city now has nine pickleball courts and eight tennis courts.
The new pickleball courts are among other recreation attractions Sea Isle is adding this year, including a nearly $1 million fishing pier and kayak launch site that opened May 1 on the bayfront near 60th Street by Dealy Field.