The courts opened this morning, with staff from HRPK trying them out. They are open daily from 6am to 1am — and will operate on an honor system, available on a first-come, first-served basis.
HRPK stressed that these are interim pickleball courts — bigger ideas are coming for this stretch of the park.
“We are in the process of selecting a design team for the permanent park between W29th and W44th Streets. As part of that process, we’ll go through what the trust normally does, which is a community discussion about what we have here. In the meantime, before we have designs, it’s great to be able to introduce an improvement in this area. Which frankly it could use,” said Noreen Doyle, President and Chief Executive of HRPK at the informal opening today.
Doyle said that they’ve worked hard to be “thrifty” with the new public space. “The lighting has been reused from Gansevoort Pier, and sections of the fencing, as well as all the benches, have been repurposed,” she said.
Those benches form an essential part of the system to keep the games moving. “We have the rules posted. It’s basically like our tennis [further down the river at Pier 40], so the benches are for people waiting in line. That’s worked pretty well for us over the years with our tennis courts.” said Doyle.
National governing body USA Pickleball describes the sport as a combination of tennis, badminton and ping pong. It was invented in 1965 by former Congressman Joel Pritchard and friend Bill Bell, who played an improvised badminton game with ping pong 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 asked pickleball players to yield Chelsea playgrounds back to children.
The new courts have been constructed in an area previously used for storage by HRPK and parking for NYPD when the police tow pound was at Pier 76.
Pickleball faces its challenges on the Hudson River — the strong winds. “If you want to play sports in Hudson River Park, you have to deal with the wind. We got wind on the Hudson River,” said Doyle.