Local couple promotes pickleball

Mike and Tawn Wolfe support the conversion of Hathaway Park tennis courts

When: Wednesdays, April 20 to June 15. Beginning, for ages 10 to adult, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Advanced, for adults, 7:30 to 9 p.m.

Where: Jemtegaard Middle School gym, 35300 S.E. Evergreen Blvd., Washougal.

Cost: $20 per person, plus a $10 equipment fee. The first class, which will be offered at no cost, includes a demonstration by skilled players.

Contact: East County Community Education, 954-3838 or visit www.washougal.k12.wa.us/wcer

When: Wednesdays, April 20 to June 15. Beginning, for ages 10 to adult, 5:30 to 7 p.m. Advanced, for adults, 7:30 to 9 p.m.

Where: Jemtegaard Middle School gym, 35300 S.E. Evergreen Blvd., Washougal.

Cost: $20 per person, plus a $10 equipment fee. The first class, which will be offered at no cost, includes a demonstration by skilled players.

Contact: East County Community Education, 954-3838 or visit www.washougal.k12.wa.us/wcer

A sport that combines the skills of pingpong, badminton, tennis and racquetball is gaining momentum throughout Clark County, and a local couple is doing their part to promote it within the Camas-Washougal area.

Mike and Tawn Wolfe, both 65, have played pickleball for two years. As voluntary co-ambassadors, they play in tournaments together and write a monthly newsletter about the sport.

Mike first saw pickleball played by a friend at the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, Utah. He has played badminton and competitive racquetball at the national level.

Mike plays pickleball nine times a week at various locations including the Firstenburg Community Center and Marshall Elementary School, in Vancouver.

He said pickleball was created to be played by families as a social sport.

“It can be very competitive, but it is centered around good sportsmanship and camaraderie,” Mike said. “Ladies can compete with men, and children can compete with adults.

“All the places I play are co-ed,” he added. “We don’t use gender as a criteria when setting up games. We just try to make them fun and competitive. In tournaments, there are men’s and women’s doubles and mixed doubles, as well as singles.”

For individuals considering taking up the sport, he said be prepared to have fun and get addicted to a new sport.

Tawn plays pickleball three to four times a week.

“It is an active, fun and sociable game,” she said. “I love that it is something we can do together.”

Mike was a full-time Los Angeles County firefighter for 30 years before he retired. He and Tawn moved to Washougal in 2002.

They are hoping the city will convert the tennis courts at Hathaway Park, to accommodate pickleball games.

“Right now, they are unusable for tennis,” Mike said. “The courts have significant cracks with weeds growing in them. The nets are in disrepair. It would be possible to renovate them as tennis courts, but the cost would be nearly the same for two tennis courts as for six pickleball courts.”

He has met with Mayor Sean Guard regarding the possible conversion of the courts.

Suzanne Bachelder, the city’s parks, cemetery and facilities manager, said the estimated cost to convert the Hathaway courts would be $70,000.

“This is mostly a financial issue,” she said. “It’s also a ‘use’ issue. Who uses the tennis court, and will the conversion from tennis to pickleball be a wise investment? Do we have the numbers of players to justify the cost? Is pickleball on the rise in popularity or the decline? We are receiving mixed information on its popularity.”

Bachelder said the Washougal Park Board seems open to the idea of discussing the court conversion.

“While they cannot commit where there are no funds, they also see improvements to the courts and the possible increased recreation as a bonus for the community,” she said. “I believe the financial issue is the conversation closer at this point. The parks operation budget has been reduced significantly over the last two years.”

If the court conversion project were to move forward, it would need the approval of City Council.

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