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Ryan McCracken photo
Ryan McCracken photo
Chuck Ouellette returns a shot during a game of pickle-ball at the ECFER gymnasium on March 31.
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Pickle-ball growing in St. Paul

Apr 08, 2014 12:15 pm | By Ryan McCracken | St. Paul Journal

Pickle-ball, a tennis-style game played with wooden paddles and a whiffle ball, has been gaining popularity with seniors in northern Alberta, and St. Paul Pickle-ball Coordinator Chuck Ouellette said numbers are about to rise.

“Once the curling is done, I know I’ve got at least three or four more coming,” said Ouellette, adding the group has been playing twice a week since late October with roughly 15 players.

Pickle-ball is “traditionally played on a badminton-sized court with special Pickle-ball paddles, made of wood or high-tech aerospace materials. The ball used is similar to a whiffle ball, but slightly smaller. The lower net and whiffle ball allow the game to be accessible to people of all ages and abilities, while still allowing more competitive players to test their mettle,” reads a statement on pickleball.com.

Ouellette, an avid curler, said he enjoys playing pickle-ball even more than being on the ice.

“I like it better than curling,” he said. “It’s more exercise, we get a good sweat.”

Bob Porozni, who took part in a few games at the East Central Francophone Education Region gymnasium on Monday afternoon, agreed that he enjoys playing pickle-ball because it gives him a workout, and compared it to a much smaller version of the sport.

“It’s like table tennis,” he said, “Except you’re on the table.”

Ouellette said anyone interested in trying out pickle-ball is more than welcome to join the group at the ECFER gymnasium on Monday afternoon and Thursday morning, regardless of age.

“We have a bunch (of paddles) in our cart, they can use them and we’ll help them out. We’ll spend some time with them giving them the rules and all that, and what they should do,” he said, adding, he hopes the sport will be able to move outdoors once warmer weather arrives. “We might get play another day outside when the weather’s good.”

County of St. Paul FCSS Director Janice Fodchuk said the area has been approved for a grant to install a pickle-ball court within the county, and groundwork should begin in June.

“We’ve been approved by the New Horizons group for $24,928 to build a pickle-ball court. What we’re planning to do is build two side-by-side,” said Fodchuk. “The location has not been determined, other than, it will be in the county of St. Paul.”

Fodchuk said there is a great deal of interest in the court, and that County FCSS is still coming up with a way to determine the best possible location for the court.

“I had letters, and letters and letters of support from people wanting it,” she said. “We haven’t decided on how we’re going to decide (where the court will go). We thought about throwing it on Facebook and saying vote for where you want it, but then we’re targeting the seniors . . . for sure we’re going to be building one, we just don’t know where yet.”

For information on how to get involved with pickle-ball, contact Chuck Ouellette at (780) 290 0810.

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