Pickleball Palooza Picks Up at Orange County Parks & Recreation

Community & Services

As summer temperatures soar, the fun is heating up for pickleball enthusiasts in Orange County.

When the county unveiled its first purpose-built outdoor complex in east Orlando last month, dozens flocked to the opening eager to check out eight new pickleball courts in Downey Park.

Architects designed the new $1.5 million lit courts with four distinct pods to accommodate different levels of play. A shady tent and tables provide a respite from the sizzling summer heat and a gathering spot for players.

Resident Brian Straub, an advanced pickleball player who’s been sidelined from recent knee surgery, said he drove 20 minutes to check out the

new courts. “They did a wonderful job. I love the layout, the benches, and the shade,” he said. “Whoever designed it did a great job.”

So why has pickleball become such a craze?

Enthusiasts say the game can improve cardiovascular fitness, eye-hand coordination, and offer stress relief. Straub said the social aspect of the sport is appealing to many. “You can meet a lot of people and get in a good workout.”

For Becky Tyree, pickleball was something she poured herself into after losing her husband. Her neighbors built a court and encouraged her to give it a try. Once she started playing, she became hooked. Now she’s a five-day-a-week player often competing multiple times in one day.

“For me, it was a lifesaver. It got me into the land of the living again,” Tyree said. “My social circles have grown since playing the sport. And it brings all ages and areas of the community together.”

Jessica Mestre Jeffery plays twice a week, with her four-year-old often tagging along with a kid-size paddle ready to learn the game.

“You don’t have to be in the best shape to play, and that’s part of the appeal of the sport. Sometimes it’s more about precision and strategy,” she said.

Orange County was introduced to pickleball in 2016 by USA pickleball ambassador Dave Vander Weide. He shared his passion for the game with county officials, and the rest is history.

Mayor Jerry Demings noted the popularity of pickleball spiking in recent years with nearly 36 million players across the country.

“As Orange County continues to grow, we need to continue investing in amenities like this one,” Demings said during the Downey Park ribbon cutting on May 28.

Matt Suedmeyer, Orange County Parks & Recreation Division Manager, is pleased with the interest in the new courts by beginners and highly skilled players both young and old. He urges players to explore pickleball options throughout Orange County’s gyms and parks.  Parks can temporarily repurpose tennis courts with portable nets for pickleball; indoor gyms can convert to pickleball courts to keep up with demand.

If you want to get involved in pickleball mania, avid players offer two tips: learn the rules and be ready for some fun. First-come, first-serve open play is offered at Barber Park Hockey Rink, Fort Christmas Historical Park, Warren Park, and Wedgefield Park.

With a paid fitness center membership, members can play at Barnett Recreation Center, Goldenrod Recreation Center, Meadow Woods Recreation Center, Silver Star Recreation Center, South Econ Recreation Center and West Orange Recreation Center.

For more information, or to learn more about Park & Recreation Month in July, visit Orange County Parks & Recreation.

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