Meadow Vista sweet for pickleball

Meadow Vista courts drawing big crowds of all ages for fast-growing game
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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A court that resembles tennis, yet much smaller. Lightweight wooden paddles indicative of table tennis, but larger. Long volleys, synonymous with badminton. And wrist action that rivals racquetball. Charles Koenig of Meadow Vista didn’t know what to make of pickleball when he and his wife, Ingrid, first watched people playing the unique sport on a makeshift court at a campground more than a decade ago. They were hooked after their first game, though, and soon started playing regularly at their membership campground in Palm Springs. “We were going down and staying there two, three, four weeks at a time,” said Koenig, 74. “We were down there three months last year.” The Koenigs, who have played pickleball at the Arizona Senior Olympics and the World Senior Games in St. George, Utah, were a driving force behind the recently renovated permanent pickleball courts at Meadow Vista Park. Pickleball originated in Washington more than four decades ago. Individuals or pairs hit a hard plastic ball with paddles half the size of racquetball racquets in a game to 11 points. The popularity of the sport was growing in many areas, but until recently it remained virtually undiscovered in Placer County. “Nobody knew about it until we went to the ARD and asked them about developing some courts down here,” Koenig said. “I said ‘you have a tennis court that nobody wants to play on that was built cockeyed.’ I showed them a video, they were interested and bought a of couple temporary nets.” The Koenigs furnished paddles and balls, and ARD agreed to stripe four surfaces, which are less than half the size of tennis courts. Soon, teens and senior citizens alike were flocking by the dozens to play every Wednesday and Saturday. “It’s just been word of mouth, basically,” Koenig said. “It’s starting to become big. Even high schools are starting to play it.” These days, many players compete three or four days a week. Bill Fixmer, 64, stumbled upon pickleball while at the park exercising. As he ambled past the courts, Koenig invited him to play. “It’s a very addicting game,” said Fixmer, a longtime tennis player who in only 10 months has become a staple on the pickleball courts. “It keeps the reflexes really sharp. It’s good for people who have sore knees and can’t play tennis much anymore, because there’s less strain on the legs.” Fixmer often plays alongside his wife, Connie. “We have a lot of couples there, and it’s a sport for all ages,” he said. “You don’t have to be committed to it. It’s a nice drop-in sport. Everyone just loves it.” Fixmer won silver in his age group at the ninth annual Palm Desert International Sports Festival in February. Dennis Lichty, another local player, won bronze. Fixmer plays three days a week in Meadow Vista and once a month during an open day at the Johnson Ranch Racquet Club in Roseville. “There’s a big group of players here,” he said. “It’s expanding and we’re tapping into some other places.” The four permanent pickleball courts at Meadow Vista Park were constructed three months ago and resurfaced with new color a few weeks ago, said ARD chairman Scott Holbrook. “They’ve been nothing but satisfied,” Holbrook said. “It’s just another example of what can happen when a unified board works with the community.” Fixmer participated in a 20-person round-robin tournament that filled the new surfaces to capacity last Wednesday. “ARD was wonderful. They did a beautiful job fixing up our courts,” Fixmer said. “That’s helped bring new people in. We keep picking up new people and we don’t seem to be losing anybody. We have more people out there than I think we realize.” Koenig has played opponents ranging from pre-teen kids, including his grandchildren, to seniors as old as 80. “You can play it as hard as you want or as easy as you want,” he said. “It’s a good family game. You can talk and be social.”