Pickleball Courts in Hot Demand for Illinois Recreational Facilities

Pickleball Fever has struck the Prairie State and the rest of the U.S. As America’s fastest-growing sport in the last three years continues to skyrocket in popularity, the demand for state and local governments to keep up with constructing adequate pickleball facilities grows. Pickleball participation in the U.S. has grown from just over 4 million players in 2020 to 13.6 million in 2023. 

Included in the growing list of amateur Illinois pickleball athletes is Illinois House Minority Leader Tony McCombie. “As my recovery from foot surgery continues this Spring, I cannot wait to get back on the pickleball court this Summer,” McCombie stated. “I love the sport and am proud to be a fierce competitor to colleagues and friends alike.”

A report issued by Pickleheads and the Sports and Fitness Industry Association indicates that Illinois will need to build over 900 pickleball courts at a cost of nearly $32 million to keep up with demand for the next 5-7 years. Illinois currently ranks 38th in the country in dedicated court coverage per 10,000 people.

In Chicagoland, developers are working on several projects. A former furniture store in Algonquin is being transformed into a sports complex with 12 pickleball courts, along with a restaurant, bar, and event space. Developer Hubbard Street Group indicated they are planning to construct more pickleball facilities in Chicagoland going forward. 

The Chicago Park District is embarking on an ambitious plan, dubbed “Pickleball Mania,” which would construct 50 new pickleball courts in the city by 2025. The Park District added that it expects to have 200 pickleball courts throughout the city by the end of 2025. Some of the new pickleball courts will involve rehabbing existing tennis courts. "

The Chicago Sport and Social Club and Big City Pickle manage courts in Gold Coast, Fulton Market, and Lincoln Yards. The Club’s President stated that their courts are full every night and weekend. The Sport and Social Club manages 28 courts and has built over 40. Courts can be rented at ChicagoCityPickle.com

In suburban Oak Park, pickleball courts are available in Euclid Square, Maple Park, Rehm Park, Taylor Park, and Barrie Park, with areas of Longfellow Park up for renovation to pickleball courts. Lessons, leagues, and tournaments are also being made available by the Tennis and Fitness Centre of Oak Park and River Forest.

Pickleball facilities’ expansion in downstate Illinois can be found in Normal, Peoria, Champaign-Urbana, and the Quad Cities. In Normal, a 30,000 square foot indoor facility will feature nine courts, with unlimited league play and open play. The facility is expected to open later this year. 

Local fundraisers contributed heavily to a $268,000 project in the Tazewell County community of Washington. The Washington Park District opened the new courts last August, and over 80 percent of the money for the project was donated by the community. Leagues and tournaments will be held at the new pickleball court facility, named for resident Dr. Paul Kinsinger, who passed away in 2016. 

And for the capital city of Springfield, legislation has been introduced that would appropriate $1.3 million for a grant to the Springfield Park District for the construction of 14 pickleball courts at Centennial Park and four additional courts at Iles Park. Senate Bill 2599 is co-sponsored by Senators Steve McClure and Doris Turner.

Pickleball is an easy sport to learn how to play, and it can be enjoyed by children and younger and older adults alike. Pickleball is best described as a cross between tennis, badminton, and table tennis, though it is most similar to tennis. Pickleball can be played indoors or outdoors on a hard surface smaller than a tennis court, and players use paddles instead of rackets. A pickleball is lighter than a tennis ball and made of plastic. Pickleball players have much less court area to cover than they would playing tennis, making it appealing for those looking for less strenuous and more enjoyable and social physical activity. 

The 18-34 age group represents the largest segment of pickleball players, at just under 29 percent. There are nearly 14,000 pickleball courts, and counting, currently in the United States, and there are over 36 million pickleball players. The sport was invented in Washington state by three vacationers in 1965.