Endorphins kicked in well before play began on six new outdoor pickleball courts in Rossford, Ohio, which borders Toledo. The ceremony dedicating the attractive, pristine venue stimulated the emotions of participants–a tightly knit group that has worked together to ensure pickleball’s presence in Metropolitan Toledo.
The story of the Pickleball Club of Greater Toledo begins with Mike and Joanne Tressler, well known to tournament participants nationwide. Introduced to the game in 2005 through Senior Olympics, the two brought the game to Toledo in 2008 through clinics at a local YMCA. By 2010, a core group of enthusiasts/addicts had developed and Connie Mierzejewski and Marsha Koch took over as Toledo’s pickleball ambassadors. Various challenges to maintaining regularly scheduled indoor play opportunities arose, but the group worked diligently to overcome those. For outdoor play, Ms. Mierzejewski spotted two abandoned tennis courts on school property in nearby Rossford and obtained permission from the Board of Education to tape them for pickleball.
Al Hager, another nationally known pickleball tournament competitor who summers near Toledo and winters in Arizona, joined the group and immediately saw the possibilities for the rough, cracked asphalt courts in Rossford. Over sushi with Ms. Koch after play one evening, he drew a blueprint for converting the tennis courts to a six-court pickleball complex complete with internal fencing. Ms. Mierzejewski then approached the Rossford Board with the plan and managed to obtain a five-year lease agreement allowing the court conversion. Mr. Hager started shadowing and later working with Dave Marberger, who was constructing pickleball courts near Mr. Hager’s winter home. Meanwhile, Ms. Koch got busy back in Ohio trying to obtain funding while communicating regularly with Mr. Hager regarding materials, their transport, and other issues that needed to be addressed to carry out the project. After pursuing public grants, she concluded that though money might eventually come through, the group would lose the summer of 2012 waiting for proposal reviewers. That’s when the idea to approach club members to supply funding took hold. After a budget for the project was established, the pickleball ambassadors hosted a meeting of potential investors at the site and shared their vision of exactly what the facility would look like–six courts were taped off and temporary nets were used so participants could experience what they were being asked to buy. Within two weeks, 38 members agreed to divide the $13,000 estimated budget among themselves and become charter members of the club, which assured each of no-cost summer pickleball for the length of the lease.
On May 14, 2012, Mr. Hager laid out the courts and started work with a local fence company to drill the new post holes and set the post sleeves. After fencing was completed, seven 55-gallon drums, blacking material, and 2800 pounds of white silica sand were delivered to the site with the help of local businessman Jeff Foster and City workers with a backhoe. A wooden cart had been built to transport the material at the site. On May 24, resurfacing began with the first coat of blacking material. On May 25 and 26, the first and second coats of green were poured and squeegeed. On May 27, two coats of blue, the color of the nonkitchen sections of the actual courts, were applied. The weather cooperated and little rain fell throughout this process, however, temperatures reached 100 degrees. According to Mr. Hager, steam came off the surfacing material as it was poured.
Mr. Hager did most of the work himself with the help of Tom Wells, a local woodworker and charter member of the group. “We worked very well together,” said Mr. Hager. “Many folks volunteered to help, but I learned from Dave Marberger that it’s easier to control a job like this with fewer people to direct. Tom is very experienced at the mixing process and supplied the equipment that I didn’t have. We did put in some 10-12-hour days, but took breaks in an RV he brought to the site and enjoyed meals provided by Connie.” Mr. Hager also credits Ms. Koch with all the pre-planning that was so vital to the job running as smoothly as it did, and says he was impressed with her persuasiveness in selling the idea to so many members of the group.
Charter members were quite surprised when the dedication ceremony was scheduled for June 3 as Ms. Koch and Mr. Hager had factored rain delays and other potential obstacles into their projections for a completion date. Local Rossford officials attended and were greatly impressed with the overall attractiveness and improvement of the property. Pickleballers were amazed at the details of the job–the way the courts lined up perfectly, the quality of the net posts and nets, the ball holders Mr. Hager created using pvc plastic painted silver to match the new internal fencing, and so on. Everybody was smiling when the windsock printed with the group’s logo was raised–Mr. Hager used a post hole from one of the tennis courts to sink a pole. Media coverage of the event has already attracted some new players, and the group will offer clinics for all who are interested as well as continue their volunteer efforts in local schools, which are teaching the sport to kids as part of their physical education programs.
Thank you Sandy for putting together such a fine account of our Conversion process!! For those of you who have not been out to the courts, please come and join us for open play Monday, Tuesday & Wednesday 5pm-dark, Thursday 9:30am-12:30pm and Sunday 1pm-4pm. Drop in fee is $5.00 and there is also a monthly or annual membership option for those who might be interested. Bring your friends who would like to give Pickleball a try!
See you on the courts!!