Pickleball courts are making their way to Valdosta

"It is a dream come true."
Published: Mar. 7, 2023 at 5:46 PM EST
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VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - The city of Valdosta is joining in on the fastest-growing sport in the country. Brand new pickleball courts will soon be open at McKey Park.

Valdosta- Lowndes Parks and Recreation Authority (VLPRA) celebrated a groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday for a new Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) project through the city of Valdosta. Soon the authority will open 12 new pickleball courts.

“It has been noted that over 36 million people are now currently playing pickleball,” Suzan Garnett, chair of VLPRA, said. “We have so many local participants who are playing. They’re actually even bringing people into our community and taping off our tennis courts at the tennis facility. And they’ve been playing that way for a couple years now. So I think just from a local need alone, it is very needed.”

Suzan Garnett, chair of Valdosta-Lowndes Parks and Recreation Authority, says the community...
Suzan Garnett, chair of Valdosta-Lowndes Parks and Recreation Authority, says the community wanted this, and they got it.(Source: WALB)

Several members of the Valdosta Pickleball Association joined Tuesday for the groundbreaking ceremony. They say they couldn’t be more thankful for these new courts.

“This is a dream come true. We’ve been wanting the courts, waiting and working with the parks and recreation. They kept saying yes it going to happen, and now it’s finally here,” Elbert Powell, Pickleball of Valdosta president, said. “It’s going to be a great facility. Valdosta-Lowndes Parks and Recreation does first-class work on everything, and this will be a first-class facility.”

Elbert Powell is the Pickleball of Valdosta President. He says both he and his fellow...
Elbert Powell is the Pickleball of Valdosta President. He says both he and his fellow pickleball friends thank VLPRA and the city of Valdosta.(Source: WALB)

Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson says he’s happy to fulfill the community’s wishes and bring them something they can enjoy.

“They’ve been very enthusiastic about this project, pushing this project, meeting with us consistently, telling us about economic impact, inviting us to tournaments to see what this community can do. So, this is a big day for them,” Matheson said.

Valdosta leaders believe these new courts be a big economic boost to the community.

“VLPRA does know that in 2022 alone, the tournaments that were held in this community with baseball, softball, special Olympics; that we had over an $8 million economic impact in Lowndes County. So, we’re hoping that the pickleball facility will just add to that number,” Garnett said.

VLPRA and Pickleball of Valdosta say they have seen an influx of all ages wanting to enjoy pickleball in the community.

“We’ve had so many people in the last year and a half start playing pickleball and now with dedicated courts, we will have more and more coming out. And we’re going to have to build more. But this is a great start,” Powell, said.

Not only will the participants benefit from these new courts, but restaurants, hotels and businesses overall will benefit from these new additions to McKey Park.

“The last tournament, 108 participants came in for two and a half days. I put that at about $100,000 to $150,000 in just one single tournament. They could hold multiple tournaments in the course of a year if they have this and again the community themselves get to enjoy it every day,” Matheson said.

The VLPRA and the city of Valdosta hope to have this project done by the end of 2023 for the community, and surrounding communities to enjoy.