EAST LANSING, Mich. — Through the gates at Patriarche Park in East Lansing on a nice day, you can find people of all ages serving up wiffle balls and some friendly competition.
“I’m a former tennis player and a friend of mine said to me, Sue, you've got to come and try this new sport,” said Sue Mills.
Which is how she came to try pickleball.
“It’s a game that was started years and years ago in Washington state and it was started by a family that was bored and needed something to do,” said Gary Beaudoin, who was instrumental in bringing pickleball to East Lansing.
It's gotten so popular, the six courts at the park are often full and have people waiting to play.
“There are times you want to play and it’s like, 'Oh I can’t play here because the courts are busy,” said Berniece Peltier, a member of the pickleball group.
Which is why players want more room. Mills said they need other amenities like barriers between courts.
“With the ball and the smaller courts and balls going from one court to another and all ages playing and having to stop play to pick up balls," Mills said. "One things that the newer places that are being developed have is fencing between the courts.”
And the five-year-old courts need to be patched up.
“They’re in really bad shape now and people aren’t playing on them as much as they used to because of the cracks and everything else that’s going on," Peltier said.
Beaudoin said they've tried temporary fixes, but they didn't last.
“When we first started playing here six years ago, the cracks were this wide and this deep and we convinced the city after a year if we raised $8,000 they kicked in $8,000 and we resurfaced these," Beaudoin said. “They said they’re not going to last, it's just a temporary fix and sure enough the cracks have come back.”
Beaudoin said the city of East Lansing received a $300,000 grant from the Natural Resources Trust Fund Grant and committed $200,000 in income tax funds and came up with a plan for park improvements, but they need a bit more help.
“They wanted to know what would make these even more special and fencing between the courts was one," Mills said. "Their original plan had lower fencing around the outside for the pickleball and we wanted higher fencing and all these things cost money.”
Mills came up with a fundraising idea through the platform Patronicity and the Public Spaces Community Places program to get to their goal of $50,000. If that's met it will be matched for the complete $100,000 total.
“You have to do your fund raising to finish off your project within a 60-day period and we’re saying we’re going to do $50,000 then the MEDC, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, will match it one to one,” Mills said.
To raise the money, they have a few ideas.
“If you want to name a court a $5,000 contribution would name the court," Mills said, "$2,500 we’d pair a donor up with another person and they’d have their name on the court for five years.”
To fix the courts for the whole community to enjoy.
“We can do tournaments. We can do more clinics," Peltier said. "Stuff that we can’t do right now on these courts.”
The fundraiser kickoff is Saturday, Oct. 9 at Patriarche Park from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mills said the Patronicity fundraiser will launch in January and go for 60 days.
If all goes according to plan, they hope renovations will happen next summer.
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