Pickleball craze hits Hudson

by Judy Stringer

Longtime resident and tennis enthusiast Hugo Sandberg has been advocating for a community tennis center in Hudson for more than a decade.

Sandberg said he finally began making inroads – gaining critical support from the Hudson Park Board – roughly four years ago, about the same time he started playing pickleball.

“In Twinsburg, they had converted two tennis courts into six pickleball courts, and when I would go up there, they were full all the time,” he explained. “So, as we were talking about tennis courts here in Hudson, I said ‘I really think we should consider building pickleball courts too.’”

On Oct. 24, Hudson officials cut the ribbon on its $1.8-million tennis complex, which includes five tennis and 12 pickleball courts at Barlow Farm Park. The site had been opened for four days before that, however, and even Sandberg has been a bit taken aback by the influx of new pickleballers.

“Even before the courts opened, I started a Hudson Ohio Pickleball group on Facebook as a way of getting other people interested and seeing if we can create some sort of a community,” he said. “That started with just a few members, no big deal, and it just became bigger and bigger. … It went from 20 people to 50 to 200 to 300, 400, 500, and now we are at 773 members in a matter of weeks.”

Once the courts opened, Sandberg and fellow pickleball players began offering lessons for newbies. As of Nov. 16, he said, more than 175 people have come to one of 10 learn-to-play clinics, buoyed in part by a mild early November.

“It’s been fantastic to see all these people come out of the woodwork, who maybe have heard about it or just curious about this activity,” he said.

Next on Sandberg’s agenda is getting lights for the complex, so players can continue to use the courts once the sun goes down. The wiring, he said, is in place. 

“It was another half a million dollars to put the lights in, and the city wasn’t willing to spend that at the moment,” according to Sandberg. “We’re hopeful that we can convince city council to maybe do this next year.”

Hudson Assistant Public Works Director Trent Wash said the project costs already include restrooms, shade structures with tables, water fountains and windscreens – which were backordered and have not been installed.

“The windscreens actually came on Tuesday and the benches/water fountains will be here soon,” Wash said in a Nov. 17 email update. “The water fountains will be installed now, tested and then water turned off until spring.”

The other amenities will likely be added in the spring, according to Wash. ∞

Featured Photo: Nick Urban, with pickleball partner Mike Miller, practices hitting opposite partners Sherry Neal and Sue Schwartzhoff (not pictured) at the new pickleball courts at Barlow Farm Park. The four were part of a Nov. 2 clinic organized by a Hudson pickleball Facebook group. Photos by J. Stringer.