Photo by John Ofstedal

Who Wants More Pickleball?

The Emerald Valley Pickleball Foundation is raising $5 million for more local pickleball courts  

On an unusually warm March afternoon, the line to play pickleball at Westmoreland Park was only getting longer. My playing partners were Alicia Hays, president of the Emerald Valley Pickleball Foundation board, and Karen Gaffney, board member for the foundation. We got there early enough to snag a court.

The New York Times has written about pickleball more than 20 times since 2021, The Washington Post has covered it 25 times since 2022, and Eugene Weekly alone has shed some light on the sport at least five times since 2018.

And it’s making news again because a larger and larger number of people are demanding more pickleball courts. 

The Emerald Valley Pickleball Foundation is working with the Emerald Valley Pickleball Club in an effort to shorten the line at pickleball courts across Lane County with an outdoor pickleball complex. 

Last year, Lane County allotted $500,000 for the pickleball multiplex in its 2022 parks levy. On March 11 Eugene city councilors voted to give the foundation $750,000 to go towards the complex. Gaffney says the foundation is hoping to be able to break ground in May 2025.

Lane Community College offered its campus, just off of I-5, as a location. Local architects have begun working on a plan for the potential complex which includes creating 24 lighted outdoor courts, 10 of which would be undercover and two of which the foundation says will be “championship courts.” The courts will be immediately to the east of the baseball field near the intersection of 30th Avenue and Eldon Schafer Drive.

All that’s left to do is to raise $5 million from a combination of public and private entities to turn pickleball dreams into reality. Gaffney, a founding member of the Emerald Valley Pickleball Foundation, says that the nonprofit’s purpose is to “expand opportunities for people to play pickleball.” Designing and building a regional pickleball multiplex was the first step. 

“It’s the fastest growing sport across the country, and that’s true in Eugene as well,” Gaffney says. “What is different about Eugene, I think, is the significant lack of courts and places to play given our population.”

There are currently 18 public pickleball courts in Eugene and Springfield: Westmoreland Park hosts eight of them, Striker Park has two and Meadow Park in Springfield has eight courts. The Pickleball Foundation says that the multiplex at LCC will also be public, though it will be owned by the community college and Emerald Valley Pickleball Club will manage and operate it.

“There’s this movement for ‘chicken and pickle’ where you have a bar and pickleball courts or dinner with pickleball courts attached and you pay to play,” Hays says. “But we really want these foundation courts to be public so people can come and play anybody.”

A wide variety of people fill the Westmoreland courts. Hays, who plays the sport from a wheelchair, volleys the wiffle ball-like pickleball back and forth with Gaffney.

“As a person who uses a wheelchair, I don’t have to find three other people in wheelchairs to play with,” Hays says. “I can come out and play with people who are able-bodied, but also still be somewhat competitive.”

In the court next to them, Bob Block plays a casual game of doubles. Block, a former longtime tennis player, says he got into the sport after too many injuries kept him from tennis. He says it was the social aspect of the game that kept him playing. “Everywhere I have ever played, people are just nice and inviting and want you to learn the game,” Block says.

At the court across from Block, a group of college kids are in a tense match — complete with trash talk between the friends. 

“In the summer these courts are filled with college students,” University of Oregon student Josiah Watson says. “I’ll be playing with a buddy of mine that’s my age and we’ll get beat by two, like, 65-year-old grandmas.”

 UO currently has an intramural pickleball team that competes in the spring at the university’s tennis courts, and the Y offers pickleball classes for any age and skill level. Watson says the one thing he hears among his friends that play is there’s not enough courts

“I think pickleball just does a tremendous job of helping different people connect with each other who might not ever meet in other contexts,” Gaffney says. “It helps build a sense of community and belonging here in Eugene and Springfield.”

To learn more about how to donate to the Emerald Valley Pickleball Foundation go to

This story has been updated.