NEW PASTTIME – Jack Jochums (left) and Bob Hakes (right), with paddles in hand, stand next to one of the new two pickle ball courts recently put into operation at Minonk’s Millennium Park (For the Journal/Jeff Wiseman).

MINONK – Shortly after summer arrived in June, so did a new hobby at the 10-year-old Millennium Park on the north side of the village.

A pair of pickle ball courts sprang up inside the existing hockey rink.

“Pickle ball is one of the most popular activities around,” pointed out Bob Hakes, a member of the New Millennia Community Center committee. “It’s an adaptation of tennis, but it’s easier to play. It’s big in Bloomington-Normal. Pontiac also has it.”

The NMCC committee purchased a total of 10 paddles and six balls, similar to a whiff one, as well as netting, for park goers to use. The total cost was around $1,000.

“It’s really pretty cheap,” summed committee member Jack Jochums.

“We’re hoping people will be able to buy their own paddles,” Hakes said.

The courts are available for use on a daily basis.

According to the USA Pickleball Association, there has been an enormous spike in participation, to the tune of a whopping 650 percent since 2013.

“It’s taken some people a little while to find out what it’s all about,” said Hakes, who added two of his three sons play. “It’s something people are not used to.”

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Pickle ball’s roots go back to 1965 when it began on Bainbridge Island in Washington State. It was there that Joel Pritchard, who was running for a state representative post, was looking for a way to entertain children. He floated around the idea of a game that is a combination of badminton, ping pong and racquetball.

There have been two schools of thought in terms of how pickle ball got its name. One theory is it came from the first name of the Pritchard family dog, which coincidentally, was Pickles. However, it’s been speculated that according to Joan Pritchard, Joel’s wife, their dog did not become part of the family until ’67. The other is it being originated from the term pickle boat.

The court’s dimensions are 20 inches by 44 inches with the net 36 inches on the ends and 34 inches at the center. It is striped to that of a tennis court but with no alleys. The serve is performed underarm style and contact is made below the waist. Games can be either one-on-one or doubles with the first to 11 by a margin of two is the victor.

One of pickle ball’s neat features is it can be played regards of age and/or skill level.

“I’ve seen people with their grandkids playing,” said Jochums.

The 12-acre park also boasts a basketball court, soccer field, walking trail and a skate park. According to Hakes, they are pondering the addition of Frisbee golf.

“There’s a lot of people in the park,” Jochums said. “We have things for the little kids to do. We have things for the older folks to do.”

Joining Hakes and Jochums on the committee are the father-son tandem of Merle and Craig Kalkwarf, Pat Hamper, Ned Leiken and John Podzamsky.

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