By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City’s pickleball players won’t have to worry as much about strong winds whipping off the bay and wreaking havoc with their games.
The seven pickleball courts on 42nd Place are protected now by a new barrier that is much stronger and more attractive than the flimsy mesh netting that had been used before to block the wind.
A city contractor recently installed a system of interlocking vinyl strips that are woven into the chain-link fence surrounding the bayside courts to create a wind barrier. The cost was $24,621.
Sea Isle already has the same type of vinyl strips as a wind barrier on the fence that surrounds the city’s bayside recycling facility and Public Works Department storage yard next to the pickleball courts.
City spokeswoman Katherine Custer noted that the wind barrier has been durable at the Public Works and recycling site, so Sea Isle officials were confident it would work at the pickleball courts.
The old mesh screen, on the other hand, could not withstand heavy winds, Custer explained. The mesh covering was often blown off the chain-link fence that surrounds the pickleball courts, forcing the Public Works crews to reattach it.
“They were constantly breaking away and it was becoming very labor intensive for Public Works to be there to reattach them,” Custer explained in an interview Monday. “It was also a distraction for the players and became unsightly.”
Without some form of screening or barrier, the lightweight, plastic balls used in pickleball would be haphazardly blown around the courts once the wind gusts kicked up off the bay.
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 and families.
“We have seen more and more young people playing pickleball,” Custer said.
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 plastic ball.
The city spent nearly $180,000 to build the seven new pickleball courts on 42nd Place in 2021 to meet heavier demand for a fast-growing sport.
“I think it is fair to say that pickleball has exceeded everyone’s expectations with regard to popularity,” Custer said of the reception to the courts by the local community.
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.
The courts on both 42nd Place and West Jersey Avenue are free to the public and available on a first come, first served basis.
During nice weather, the courts are usually packed with pickleball players. But even in the dead of winter, the courts are in use, Custer pointed out.
“It is very, very popular in Sea Isle City and other towns in America,” she said.