The Keokuk Parks Foundation is trying to raise enough money to renovate the tennis courts on 5th Street into dedicated pickleball courts. The Lee County Board agreed to contribute to that effort this week, pledging $3,500.
Lee County Auditor Denise Fraise said the money will come from the county’s hotel/motel tax fund.
Carole Betts with the Keokuk Parks Foundation said the cost to renovate the courts with a 25-year-guaranteed surface is about $109,000. She said about $65,000 has been pledged thus far.
The foundation plans to apply for a Community Attraction and Tourism (CAT) Grant through the Iowa Economic Development Authority to try to cover the remaining cost. The grant requires financial contributions from local governments. Beyond Lee County’s contribution, the city of Keokuk is considering whether it will also make a $3,500 contribution.
Betts said pickleball is gaining in popularity in Keokuk. She said the Keokuk Pickleball Club has about 50 members even though the only place to play the sport in Keokuk is at the YMCA, which charges a fee to play and offers limited hours.
“So for instance, people who work cannot play pickleball,” said Betts. “We want it to be available to anyone at no cost.”
Betts said the outdoor courts on 5th Street would be free to use. People could check out the necessary equipment -- also free of charge -- from the Keokuk Public Library, which is about one block from the courts.
“It will be a great sport for all ages,” said Betts. “We plan on teaching the game, giving some lessons, and we will also possibly hold some tournaments as well.”
The USA Pickleball Association’s (USAPA) website states that the sport, which combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, was founded in 1965.
Solo players or teams of two use large paddles and a plastic ball with holes. The sport can be played indoor or outdoor.