Lake Cities Group Promotes Pickleball to Area Residents

America’s fastest-growing sport took a little longer to succeed in the Lake Cities than most areas, but thanks to a group formed last year, things are changing rapidly. That’s when Greg Vestel, Chris Manley, and others launched the Lake Cities Pickleball League focused on people living in Lake Dallas, Hickory Creek, Corinth, and Shady Shores. Greg discovered pickleball on an Alaskan cruise ship in 2019 and employed his long-time knowledge of social networking from the adult volleyball world to spread the word. 

“People in their 70s were playing, and I started playing it and liked it. I came back here and then COVID hit,” Greg said. “I was in The Colony at the time, and Frisco had just built a senior center with two pickleball courts that had to shut down. Four of my volleyball friends and I went out there every day and started to play for a while. It stopped for about a year, and then we found a place called Chicken and Pickle and played there.” Vestal and wife Melissa moved to the tiny houses of Lake Dallas in January. Looking to play closer to his new home, he started a Facebook page, which 300 people quickly liked. Among them were Linda and Jim Barker, who had just started taking lessons. 

“We were just excited to have other people to play with,” Linda said. “I had heard about it for years. We both were retired and looking for a new interest to keep me active. I wanted to have an activity to do with my grandkids. On a whim, I invited Jim to come check this out, and the next thing I know we’re buying better equipment.” The Barkers now play 4-5 times per week and take their equipment with them whenever they travel to places like Kansas and Oklahoma. Chris, a USA Pickleball Ambassador who lives in Hickory Creek, originally brought the sport to the Lake Cities in 2019 when he drew lines on the tennis courts at Lake Dallas City Park. He first played the sport when he lived and worked in Casper, Wyoming.

“It was inside. There’s not much to do there in the winter,” Chris said. “Plus, it looked kind of quirky, and I’m a quirky kind of guy.” When he moved to Texas in 2016, Chris found no interest in pickleball nearby, so he took his talents to other places in the Metroplex. He and other ambassadors made a presentation to Lake Dallas officials about installing permanent lines, nets, and lights but that didn’t make an initial dent. “COVID was tough on us,” Chris said. “Nobody knew about it. It wasn’t until COVID went full-fledged that people wanted to play because you had natural separation.”

Pickleball was invented in 1965 by three Bainbridge Island, Washington, men and first came to North Texas in the late 2000s. It features a combination of badminton, handball, racquetball, table tennis, and regular tennis and is played on a court similar to yet smaller than a tennis court. Originally a game played primarily by seniors, pickleball has blossomed into something all ages now enjoy. The Lake Cities group started playing Mondays and Thursdays and now has 30-35 members, many who play almost every day. They range in age between 16 and 72 and include a growing group from Thousand Hills Church. “We do want to acknowledge Lake Dallas for its support,” Vestal said adding that the courts which are more than 30 years old are set for a future resurfacing.

“Yes, this is about pickleball but we’re bigger than that,” Linda said. “We not only enjoy playing the game, we enjoy each other. Now we’re starting to branch out and do things socially together away from the courts.” The ultimate vision of the Lake Cities group is to host community tournaments to raise money for charities. “When it gets warm again next season, we think it’s going to explode,” Vestal said. “We want to put a box in here with nets so anyone can play.”“We do have some growing pains,” Chris said. “We’re working on some things. We want to grow it. Greg has put some fuel into it with some new ideas.”

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