Pickleball, the jauntily named recreational sport sweeping the nation, is coming to the West Side — first in a pop-up playing space in Hudson Yards this October and then on a new set of courts in Hudson River Park.
Just a pickleball serve away from where tennis fans watched the US Open livestream, intrepid athletes can polish their skills at a month-long Hudson Yards Backyard pop-up run by CityPickle, as New York’s first indoor pickleball club (opening in Long Island City in 2023) takes the fun outdoors.
Courts can be reserved for free between noon and 7pm Monday through Friday and from 9am to 7pm on Saturday and Sunday. Players can rent signature pingpong-esque pickleball paddles for $10 or bring their own, and for a fee, can sign up for instruction from USA pickleball ambassador Katherine Hedden.
“We’re excited to host CityPickle for the month of October as they open a pickleball court for Power Hour at the Backyard at Hudson Yards,” said Stacey Feder, Chief Marketing Officer of Hudson Yards. “Pickleball is one of the most popular sports in the world right now and we’re thrilled to bring pickleball to the public with our partners at Wells Fargo.”
“We couldn’t imagine a better location than Hudson Yards to introduce CityPickle to New York City,” said Co-founder of CityPickle Mary Cannon. “As the City’s home for pickleball, we’re looking forward to introducing the country’s fastest growing sport to first timers while also hosting experienced players,” added Co-Founder of CityPickle Erica Desai.
National governing body USA Pickleball describes the sport as a combination of tennis, badminton and pingpong. It was invented in 1965 by former Congressman Joel Pritchard and friend Bill Bell, who played an improvised badminton game with pingpong paddles and a perforated plastic ball. The name of the game honored Pritchard’s dog, Pickle, and though the sport would eventually travel far outside the Congressman’s Bainbridge, Washington, home, the moniker stuck.
According to New York Magazine and the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, an estimated 4.2 million people played pickleball in 2020 and interest in the game is growing. Demand for more permanent space to play is evident across New York — and on the West Side, City Council Member Erik Bottcher recently asked pickleball players to yield Chelsea playgrounds back to children.
After getting requests from residents for pickleball courts at the under-construction Pier 97 at Hudson River Park, the HRPT team found West Side real estate just below Pier 76, previously the site of a US Open tennis pop-up, near the W34th Street operational yards — once home to several mysterious stone cow and ram head statues, and now an empty space near the organization’s operations and composting facilities.
“During conversations with Community Board 4 members last year, we promised to explore whether there was a way to accommodate pickleball courts somewhere,” said Noreen Doyle, President and CEO of the Hudson River Park Trust. “We are happy to have found a way to make these interim courts happen and have hired a landscape architect to move the project forward with the expectation that we’ll be able to open the courts next summer.“
“We realized that there was an opportunity to consolidate some of our operations and to combine pickleball improvements with other necessary work — pavement, and other safety related items — while we wait for this area of the park to be permanently landscaped,” she added at a recent Manhattan Community Board 4 Waterfront, Parks & Environment meeting.
While parts of the operational area will be repaved, the HRPT team will also pave four courts, and install netting and solar-powered lighting. The organization will work with the local NYC Pickleball alliance to organize community education, tournaments and formalized play.
MCB4 members were excited to hear of the upcoming courts, with board member Brad Pascarella declaring: “We’ve got solar in the park, we’ve got reused material, it’s pretty amazing — and then they give us pickleball! The community’s been asking for this and we really thank you.”
Until the park courts open, you can practice locally at the temporary CityPickle installation, or at Dewitt Clinton Park, where NYC Pickleball advise that there are two painted courts on the asphalt and one taped court. You will need to bring your own portable nets (BYON). It’s currently open play: “Nothing scheduled, and no formally organized group. First come first serve. If you live nearby, form a group and get playing!” says NYC Pickleball.