The Rise of Pickleball


Media by Pranav Sriraman

Inside of the Chesterfield Mall, the Arch Badminton Center has transformed what was once the area where the double-decker carousel was located into a series of badminton and pickleball courts so that people can participate in a variety of different matches and activities as they please.

Pursuing a new passion that would help him stay in shape while providing him the opportunity to interact with his friends, Mike Beavers, Chesterfield resident, started participating in pickleball matches at the Arch Badminton Center in the Chesterfield Mall.

“Our friends started playing and invited us along and it’s just been good exercise and a lot of fun,” Beavers said. “I enjoy the competition but also just the fun.”

As the popularity of Pickleball continues to grow, more and more locations are opening Pickleball courts. A popular example of this is Chicken N Pickle, a restaurant in the northern Kansas City area that features multiple pickleball courts along with a rooftop bar.

Beavers said the element of pickleball that made the sport so entertaining was the outlet it presented him to interact with his peers.

In Chesterfield, along with the indoor courts inside the Chesterfield Mall, plans are in place for outdoor courts to be built in a vacant parking lot in between The Awakening Statue and an open field near the Chesterfield Amphitheater and the Samuel C. Sachs branch of the St. Louis County Library. (Media by Pranav Sriraman)

“Pickleball keeps everybody kind of laughing and engaged in what’s going on,” Beavers said. “We get a chance to hang out as friends and have kind of a regular time every week to do something so excellent.”

The nature and rules of pickleball are similar to both tennis and ping pong, which is what drew Jon Richert, a former tennis player, to start playing the sport

“It really is kind of in between tennis and ping pong,” Richert said. “Not quite as much running as tennis, but it has a lot of the trick shots that you get in ping pong with the spin of the ball.”

Richert said the competitive nature of the sport was another factor that sparked his interest in pickleball.

Now that younger people are starting to play it will continue to grow because they can play forever.

— Felicia Durst

“When you start getting advanced level players, it’s just as competitive as any sport out there,” Richert said. “If you don’t watch out, you get hit with the ball right in the head or right in the center of your gut.”

One can participate in pickleball games at a variety of different locations in the St. Louis area. The Arch Badminton Center inside of the Chesterfield Mall, Vetta Sports Locations in downtown St. Louis, Sappington and St. Peters, Missouri Pickleball Club in Fenton, Tower Grove Park, and Tilles Park all provide courts for one to play Pickleball.

At Marquette High School, Physical Education Teacher Felicia Durst, Marquette’s 2021-2022 Teacher of the Year, talked about how her and her fellow PE department teachers play pickleball at school.

We try to fit a game whenever we can,” Durst said. “It

Denny Ragan has played in 2 pickleball tournaments in the past year and plans to play in another one in 2022. “I play everyday. It keeps me going,” Ragan said. (Media by Pranav Sriraman)

doesn’t always happen before school, sometimes we will play during the day as well. We play because it is fun and good exercise.”

In the matches MHS faculty participate in, Durst said that they get very competitive between her and her co-workers.

“The teachers I play with were all college athletes,” Durst said. “We are all very competitive people whether it comes to pickleball or any other sport or activity we do.”

Rob Durham, Language Arts teacher, has participated in pickleball matches since the summer of 2017. He said that he was introduced to the sport by his neighbor.

“My condo complex has a court and my neighbor friend Paul challenged me to a singles match. We were instantly hooked. Since then we’ve played almost every summer morning.”

I play everyday. It keeps me going.

— Denny Ragan

When asked about how frequently he participates in tournaments and how difficult they are, Durham said that he participates every couple of months and that the tournaments are very tough.

“My partner is 70 years old, so mobility is a struggle for him,” Durham said. “But since we’re friends and I don’t have another partner, we keep at it. We know each other’s styles so when we’re on, we’re pretty good.”

With the sport rapidly rising in popularity within Marquette and the St. Louis County as a whole, combined with the investment into developing more courts and resources, pickleball is a family-friendly sport that one can easily get involved in.