Pickleball, the fastest-growing sport in America, is coming to Central Park this spring with 14 new courts opening April 7 at Wollman Rink. Courts will be available for $80 an hour during off-peak times and $120 during peak times.
The installation will be managed by CityPickle, which has a commitment with the operators of Wollman Rink to operate the pickleball courts through Oct. 9 before the venue transitions back to ice-skating for winter. CityPickle will also offer lessons, clinics, leagues, open play times, and rent courts for birthday parties and corporate events.
“Right now the way many people play is they bring their own nets to scraps of pavement around the city,” CityPickle co-founder Erica Desai, also the former acting chief of staff with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, told The New York Times. “They can’t schedule ahead. They’re playing on surfaces that are cracked. In Wollman, not only will [we] be able to accommodate a lot of people, they’ll be playing on a professional surface.”
Wollman’s court surfaces will be provided by Pickleball United, whose courts are also used in two professional U.S. leagues: Major League Pickleball and the Association of Pickleball Professionals. The sport, which is similar to tennis but played on a smaller court, surged during the pandemic as an outdoor activity accommodating to people of varying athletic abilities.
CityPickle has partnered with Wollman Rink Partners, LLC, the joint venture between Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment (HBSE), Related Companies, and Equinox. Donald Trump’s Trump Organization had operated the rink since the 1980s until former Mayor Bill de Blasio ended that contract in 2021. The rink’s new operators include HBSE, which owns the NHL’s New Jersey Devils and the Philadelphia 76ers NBA team.
“Our sense is that pickleball has real staying power and there is a deficit of opportunities in the city and this could become a longer-term thing, but we’re flexible,” Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the partnership, told the NYT. “Right now we’re just looking forward to a great summer of pickleball.”
CityPickle will begin taking online reservations for courts on March 31. The company says its 14-court installation will be the largest pickleball offering in the Northeast with 196 hours of play available per day. Players can bring their own paddles or rent them for $6 each.
To sign up for updates, visit city-pickle.com/locations/wollman-rink.
And what has happened to the swimming pool that provided cooling open space for thousands each summer. Is it to be replaced by pickle ball courts available only to the wealthy at $80.00 an hour?