Getting Back to Business Bainbridge Island Style (Part 10) – Playing Pickleball

It’s been a long tough road over the last few months, and although we’re not out of the woods just yet, we’re resilient, and slowly—under County and State re-opening guidelines—we’re opening our doors again to the public. Through this series, I’m excited to share the stories of our Island businesses—what they’ve been doing over the last few months and what they have planned going forward.

Per state health order 20-03, a facial covering must be worn in both indoor and outdoor public spaces (when you’re within six feet of people outside your household) to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Thank you for doing your part to keep our community safe and our businesses open.


Although Pickleball isn’t a business, it is a Bainbridge Island tradition that, like everything else, has been affected by the pandemic, including the cancellation of the annual Founders Pickleball Tournament. The game was created one summer afternoon in 1965, when islanders Joel Pritchard and his friend, Bill Bell, returned home from a game of golf, to find a group of very bored family members. In an effort to entertain them, they turned to the old and mostly unused badminton court on Joel’s property, after a fruitless search for proper rackets, they improvised and gathered up some Ping-pong paddles and a perforated plastic ball, as well as a 60-inch net (badminton height) and started volleying the ball back and forth. They soon realized the asphalt surface of the court was perfect for bouncing the ball and decided to lowered the net to 36 inches. The make-shift game was a huge success, and the following weekend they introduced their new game to friend, Barney McCallum, who became immediately smitten with it, from there, Joel, Bill, and Barney formed formal rules, creating a game the entire family could enjoy, regardless of athletic ability or age.

By 1967, the game had become a hit on Bainbridge Island and the first permanent court was built in the backyard of one of the Pritchard family’s neighbor, Bob O’Brian. In 1972 a corporation was formed to protect the game. Since then, the game has become a national favorite, and is played all across the country, as well as several Canadian Provinces. By 2017, it had become an international sensation as well. To learn more about the history of the game, click here.

Today, the game is “formally” played at the shared tennis courts at Battle Point Park, however, on August 1, 2019, the Bainbridge Island Parks & Recreation Board voted unanimously to approve the construction of six new pickleball courts at Battle Point Park, which are currently under construction and will feature not just the courts, but kiosks depicting the history of the sport.

Following Washington State’s guidelines for outdoor recreation, below are the recommendations for safe play:

  • Limit play to singles with one chosen partner or doubles with a fixed partner and a fixed pair of opponents throughout phase 2.
  • No group play, no rotations.  Play for up to an hour (if others are waiting) and then let the next set of players have the court.
  • No ‘open play’.  In other words, show up with a prearranged match.  Do not come to the courts expecting to pick up a game with random opponents.
  • (TBD)The Battle Point courts have been reserved on Mon, Wed, Fri, and Sat from 8am to 12 noon for pickleball.  Please try to spread out the play across the hours.  Just like the guidance for other recreation activities, if there are too many people, come back at another time and don’t wait around.
  • Bring your own ball and label it clearly.  There will not be shared pickleballs available in the storage box. You should only touch the pickleball(s) you brought.
  • Use a maximum of 4 courts for now.  Use extra nets as ball barriers.  In the initial week, volunteers will help set up nets.  Follow diagram in storage box if setting up your own nets.
  • Sanitize your hands after play. Sanitize before and after setting up or breaking down nets and accessing storage box.
  • Limit socializing, or if you must, don’t forget social distancing!

As construction is in progress on the new courts and soon on the playground, parking is limited.  Some might want to drive in through the west entrance of park and drive around through the park to access the courts.

If you’d like to play, join the Bainbridge Island Pickleball Group to receive updates and arrange for play time.

Link: Washington State Guidelines for outdoor recreation.
USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) guidelines for safe play.

*If you’re an island business and would like to share your story, please contact me via the “contact” link in this blog.

*Images used with permission by BI Pickleball

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