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Residents and visitors flock to Schneider Park for inaugural pickleball games

Six courts opened to the public Tuesday morning
Between 40 and 50 people showed up to Schneider Park around 9 a.m. Tuesday for opening day of the city of Durango’s first outdoor pickleball courts. (Courtesy of the city of Durango)

Schneider Park was packed full of Durango residents and visitors Tuesday for the widely anticipated opening day of outdoor pickleball.

Pickleball players were in high spirits over the official opening of six pickleball courts at the park along the Animas River. Passersby on the Animas River Trail stopped to watch players before continuing on their walks or bike rides.

Carlie, Sophie and Tony Cross, traveling for the summer from Atlanta, said they’ve been playing pickleball for about a year. When they heard the city’s first outdoor pickleball courts were opening Tuesday, they readied their pickleball paddles.

The Schneider Park picketball courts officially opened Tuesday. Hours are from 7:30 a.m. until sunset. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald)

“We travel in a campervan in the summers (for) three or four months and we used to play tennis. You can't show up at tennis courts and play, everybody goes with their people. So pickleball is great that way,” Carlie said. “You rotate in and it's so inclusive and you can get into any community just like that.”

Players on Tuesday said there is plenty to love about the sport itself, but the pickleball community is the cherry on top.

Scott Silveira, who moved to Durango from Carlsbad, California, about a year and a half ago, said if it weren’t for pickleball and how inclusive its scene is, he probably still wouldn’t have any friends in town. But as things are, he has at least 46 contacts for fellow players who leap at the chance to get games in on the weekends.

On Tuesday, he was in a good mood. He played several matches and hadn’t lost one.

He said having outdoor pickleball courts in Durango is “awesome, long overdue” and “a very positive thing” for the city.

The city made the right decision to build the six courts at Schneider Park instead of at the Smith Sports Complex at Fort Lewis College, Silveira said. At Schneider Park, the Animas River and so-named river trail are right next door, and trees and grass are abundant.

He said the river appears to muffle the pinging of pickleballs bouncing off paddles, the noise being a concern shared by some residents while the city was figuring out where to build the pickleball courts.

Before the courts were built, Silveira would ride his bike through Schneider Park and frequently saw unhoused residents smoking marijuana. He noted a fire sparked last week, which resulted in the arrest of Avery Burns, 23, on suspicion of arson.

As of 3:35 p.m. Tuesday, 17 games had been reserved by pickleball players with Durango Parks and Recreation, said Scott McClain, assistant parks director. (Courtesy of the city of Durango)

He said the park improvements, which in addition to the courts include a swing set, picnic tables, bike racks, benches and a shade structure, should make the green space more friendly to the public.

Southwest Colorado Pickleball Association member Susie Ripp said pickleball is an easy sport to jump into, and the addition of outdoor courts is a blessing for area players. At the Durango Community Recreation Center where indoor play is facilitated, she would wait for 30 minutes sometimes before being able to get one game in.

“It's fun, it's social. It's way more competitive than some people like to comment on, but you don't have to be athletic at all,” she said.

And she said the misconception that pickleball is a sport for seniors is just that, not true.

cburney@durangoherald.com



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