Pickleball Craze Sweeps Arizona Snowbird RV Parks

Snowbird RV parks and resorts across Arizona, empty nesters, and retirees are abandoning tennis in favor of pickleball, an easy to learn, senior-friendly sport that requires hitting the ball over a net, but in a small court that doesn’t require nearly as much running around.

Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort Pickleball Group
Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort Pickleball Group

“Pickleball is amazingly popular,” said Vickie Jepperson, manager of Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort in El Mirage, Arizona.

“In all of my years working in the RV resort business, I’ve never seen a sport, other than golf, that is this popular.”

So popular, in fact, that RV parks and resorts in Arizona and across the Sunbelt are converting some of their tennis courts into pickleball courts and building new pickleball courts to accommodate the rapidly increasing numbers of pickleball enthusiasts, said Jo Ann Mickelson, executive director of the Arizona Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds.

“We put in our first two pickleball courts in 2011. Then we added two more in 2013. And this summer we’re putting in two more,” said Cherie Suddarth, manager of the 754-site Gold Canyon RV and Golf Resort in Gold Canyon, Arizona.

Demand for pickleball courts has become so intense that RV parks and resorts that don’t have pickleball are losing snowbird business to other parks that do. Even parks that don’t have enough pickleball courts are at risk.

Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort installed its first two pickleball courts six years ago. But so many snowbirds took an interest in pickleball that lines started to develop and the resort ended up losing some of its snowbirds to other parks that had more pickleball courts.

Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort new pickleball courts
Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort new pickleball courts

“We didn’t have enough pickleball courts, so we lost people,” Jepperson said. But not for long.

Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort responded to demand by adding 16 more pickleball courts, which were completed two years ago.

And the park’s facilities are so highly regarding that the 1,284-site resort will be hosting the Grand Canyon State Games, the third largest pickleball tournament in the world, from today (February 19) through Sunday, February 23.

Jepperson said pickleball has become a big business that draws players from all over the country.

And RV parks and resorts that have the largest and highest quality pickleball facilities often wind up hosting pickleball tournaments that bring in more guests.

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa Grande is having an in-house tournament today (February 19) which involves the park’s guests. But March 7 to 9 the resort will have its annual open tournament, which will draw hundreds of pickleball enthusiasts, said Wendell Johnson, Palm Creek’s general manager.

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort Pickleball
Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort Pickleball

“We have had several people come in RVs for the tournament and then come back to stay with us during the following winter season. We have also had many non RVers come for the tournament and later rent or buy a home. Our 24 pickleball courts have been a great marketing tool for Palm Creek.”

Indeed, pickleball is so popular it’s not just popular with snowbirds, but people of all ages.

“We’ve even converted some of our tennis courts into pickleball courts,” said Mickelson of the Arizona Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds, who owns JH RV Park in Flagstaff.

Suddarth of Gold Canyon RV & Golf Resort said pickleball is also easy to learn, so it’s a sport that anyone can learn quickly. “It’s a great activity for people to meet each other and have fun,” she said.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a fast paced, easy game to learn and very similar to tennis, yet easier on older joints. As a matter of fact it can be played on a tennis court with a few minor conversions.

Pickleball combines elements of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong (table tennis), and is played on a court with the same dimensions as doubles badminton. It is played as a singles game with one person per side or more commonly as a doubles game with two people on each side of the 36 inches high net.

Each player uses a hard-surface paddle (total length plus width of the paddle cannot exceed 23¾ inches). The object of the game is to score points by successfully hitting a three-inch-diameter polymer (plastic) ball that is perforated with holes (similar to a whiffle-ball) across the net without it being successfully returned by the opponent (s).

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort Pickleball
Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort Pickleball

Served with an underhand stroke, the ball must bounce before it can be returned on the serve and must bounce before the second return. Games are played to 11 points.

Over time the rules of the game have become more sophisticated but when first developed, pickleball was a simple game designed for all ages and any athletic ability level.

Earlier stories on pickleball can be seen by clicking here.

Worth Pondering…

Well…, meet me in the morning, meet me in the evening, meet me at pickleball time

Be my pickleball partner and we’ll have a good ole time.

Be my pickleball partner and we’ll have a good ole time.

Go and grab your paddle, and swear to your friends around

You’ll be loving pickleball, ‘til the end of time.

Yes, we’ll have a good ole time

It’s Pickleball – Pickleball – Pickleball – time

—Singing Pickleball Pete

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Palm Creek Resort Sold to Sun Communities

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort, long one of the premier operations of its type in the United States, has been sold to Sun Communities, owner or operator of more than 170 manufactured housing and recreational vehicle communities in 18 states.

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort
Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort

Palm Creek is a 5-star institutional quality, age restricted resort with 1,863 sites located in Casa Grande, Arizona, just forty minutes south of Phoenix. Amenities include an 18-hole golf course, pools, spas, and a world class pickle ball and tennis facility. The resort is rated very high with a 29 out of 30 rating by Woodall’s/Good Sam Club.

Sun Communities acquired the resort and related improvements, personal property, and associated intangibles for $70.4 million and a contiguous parcel of land being developed to add approximately 990 recreational vehicle, or approximately 550 manufactured housing sites, for $15.0 million.

The aggregate purchase price of $88.0 million includes the reimbursement of $2.6 million for certain construction costs incurred in connection with the development of the land described above. The Company assumed $41.7 million of mortgage debt secured by the community.

The announcement that the Casa Grande RV Resort was sold to the Southfield, Michigan REIT, came from a Sun Communities news release and the Wolfswinkel family, originators of the park, in a letter to Palm Creek residents.

“We believe that this is in not only the best interest of our family, but for the benefit of our residents, guests, and the community as a whole,” Ashton Wolfswinkel wrote to Palm Creek residents.

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort Pickleball
Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort Pickleball

“Palm Creek started as a dream of my father, Conley, and has become one of the premier RV and mobile home communities in the United States. Through his vision, the hard work and dedication of many longtime staff members, countless volunteers, and the patronage of our residents and guests over the past 13-plus years, Palm Creek has continued to grow into a community that we as owners have been very proud of. I also believe this same pride and sense of community is felt deeply by our residents and guests.”

“The entire management team and staff will continue to serve our residents and run the property in the same fashion as it has always been, with a commitment to excellence,” Wolfswinkel wrote.

“Sun Communities is run by a group of high-quality individuals and they are committed to working to keep Palm Creek the amazing place it has become. I feel confident and am very comfortable knowing that Palm Creek will be in good hands and will build on the legacy that we have all been blessed to be a part of.”

Details

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort

Palm Creek offers luxury living, whether for a few days or a lifetime.

Address: 1110 North Henness Road, Casa Grande, AZ 85122

Phone: (800) 421-7004

Website: palmcreekgolf.com

Sun Communities, Inc.

Sun Communities, Inc is a premier provider of manufactured home communities and RV resorts and currently owns and operates a portfolio of 173 communities comprising approximately 63,600 developed sites.

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort
Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort

The company was established in 1975.

The Sun Communities has operations in Colorado (4), Delaware (2), Florida (27), Georgia (3), Illinois (1), Indiana (18), Iowa (1), Kansas (1), Michigan (70), Missouri (2), Nevada (2), North Carolina (3), Ohio (11), Oregon (2), Pennsylvania (1), Tennessee (1), Texas (18), and Virginia (1).

Florida properties include Buttonwood Bay (Sebring), Grand Lake (Citra), The Groves (Fort Myers), Indian Creek (Fort Myers Beach), Lake San Marino (Naples), and Siesta Bay (Fort Myers).

South Texas properties include Casa de Valle (Alamo), Kenwood (La Feria), and Snow to Sun (Weslaco).

Address: 27777 Franklin Road, Suite 200, Southfield, MI 48034

Website: suncommunities.com

Worth Pondering…

If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.

—George Bernard Shaw

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Variety of Activities Attract Winter Texans to Rio Grande Valley

During the summer months, Clyde and Kathy Janssen work as dance instructors at the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, one of the most famous dance halls in America, which traces its roots to the Big Band Era of the 1930s and 40s.

The sighting of this Black-vented Oriole brought birders from around the world to Bentsen Palm Village. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The Black-vented Oriole made its home a short distance from our RV site at Bentsen Palm Village. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But from November through April, the Janssens teach Jitterbug / Swing at Victoria Palms Resort in Donna. They also assist Grethe Sullivan in teaching salsa, cha cha, and other forms of ballroom dancing at the resort, according to a Texas Association of Campground Owners news release.

Victoria Palms Resort is one of many resorts across the Rio Grande Valley that offer dance classes as well as dancing to live and recorded music during the winter months.

“Dancing is one of the most popular activities at RV parks across the Rio Grande Valley,” Clyde Janssen said.

“It’s especially popular with empty nesters, whose kids have graduated from high school. It’s just mom and dad now. Now they have time for themselves and they can take time to do the things they’ve always wanted to do.”

A "Valley Specialty,: the Buff-bellied Hummingbird is a common sight at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and Wold Birding Center and other Valley nature spots. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
A “Valley Specialty,: the Buff-bellied Hummingbird is a common sight at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and Wold Birding Center and other Valley nature spots. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“The wonderful thing about dancing is it’s something couples can do together as opposed to doing something where they are competing against each other,” Janssen said, adding, “It helps build personal relationships.”

Roughly 90 percent of the RV parks and resorts in the Rio Grande Valley offers dance lessons as well as venues where Winter Texans can dance to their hearts’ content, said Kristi Collier, president and CEO of Welcome Home Rio Grande Valley, which markets 75 RV parks and resorts from Mission to South Padre Island.

Of course, dancing is just one of a growing array of activities being offered at Rio Grande RV parks.

Some parks have literally hundreds of activities, from sewing and quilting classes to exercise and meditation classes, such as yoga, Tai Chi, and Qi Gong as well as water aerobics and pickleball.

“If you’re bored down here, it’s your own fault,” Collier said, adding that many of the larger RV parks and resorts have multiple halls with breakout rooms for class and other activities and special events.

Many parks also have various arts and crafts classes, from painting to woodworking and lapidary, the art of jewelry making using fresh cut and polished stones.

Tom and Ayumi Towles have been teaching Winter Texans how to cut, grind, and set stones at the Llano Grande lapidary for 16 years. They also teach silver smithing and wire wrapping.

The lapidary shop is a unique feature, being the largest of only two lapidaries in the Rio Grande Valley. With 45 different machines available, guests of Llano Grande have unparalleled access to multiple aspects of this special craft. Lapidary shop guests pay for their materials, but the Towles provide instruction free of charge.

“We’ll normally have a dozen to 20 people a day who come in here and work,” Tom said.

“Most of the guys make jewelry for their wives. But they’ll also make bolos and belt buckles for themselves.”

Most work with various colors of jade, agates, jasper, and putrefied wood that they bring in from their travels, as well as local rocks they pick up in southern Texas, and coprolite which comes from western Colorado or eastern Utah.

“It’s petrified dinosaur dung,” Towles said. “It’s very pretty. It has lots of colors in it. It’s usually 70 to 100 million years old.”

Visitors to Santa Ana are often greeted with the raucous cry of the drab brown, scrawny-looking, turkey-like bird called a plain chachalaca, a bird that reaches its northern limits in the Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Visitors to Santa Ana are often greeted with the raucous cry of the drab brown, scrawny-looking, turkey-like bird called a plain chachalaca, a bird that reaches its northern limits in the Valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Llano Grande’s lapidary shop also has various rocks as well as jewelry settings which are ordered from jewelry suppliers for those who need them.

Towles said most people who try making their own jewelry enjoy it.

“It’s like a bug that bites them and then they’re in here every day,” he said.

Further to the east, many of the Winter Texans who stay at Bentsen Palm Village enjoy the park’s woodshop, which is equipped with a variety of wood cutting machines.

“We have two volunteers who teach people in the park how to make beautiful wood bowls and other items,” said Juanita Carvajal, the park’s general manager.

Bensten Palm Village also has a craft room that is frequented by quilters and sewing enthusiasts. The park offers a variety of art classes, including gourd painting, Swedish blanket making and water colors.

“We also have line dancing and couples dancing and zumba classes,” Carvajal said.

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What’s NOT to Love About Pickleball?

When Otis and Jean Vaughn bought a home in the east Mesa (Arizona) community of Venture Out RV Resort, they felt the active lifestyle and peaceful setting were the perfect ticket for their retirement.

Credit: pickleball.com

For much of the past two decades, they played tennis, exercised at the community pool, and traveled. But the Vaughns said that tranquility ended when the “pinging and popping” sounds of pickleball erupted on badminton-size courts that were built last year about 30 feet from their driveway, The Arizona Republic reported.

Otis Vaughn, an 84-year-old World War II veteran, said his complaints to resort and city officials haven’t generated any relief.

“It’s absolutely deafening,” he said of the hard-surface paddles striking perforated, plastic balls.

For the Vaughns, the issue is noise, not the game itself.

“We have a lot of friends who play pickleball, and it’s not about them or anybody who plays the game,” Otis Vaughn said.

“The noise penetrates our home, and it also carries over to the next street,” Otis Vaughn said.

Credit: Mission Royale Pickleball Club

He said they have considered moving, but his age would make that difficult.

And his noise protest appears to have no weight with Venture Out or the city.

Mesa Councilwoman Dina Higgins of District 5 said she met with the Vaughns in an effort to find a solution, but the city’s noise ordinance does not ban noise created by normal activities during daylight hours.

She said it is unlikely that the pickleball courts closest to the Vaughn home will be moved by the resort because there is nowhere to relocate.

“There are 400 people that play pickleball at Venture Out,” she said, “and when you watch the camaraderie that the game generates among people of a lot of ages you realize why it is growing.”

The Vaughns’ protest is among a chorus of objections to noise generated by the game in at least four Arizona retirement communities and several other states.

Pickleball is a popular activity at many RV resorts. (Credit: Sky Valley RV Resort)

But the complaints have had little impact on pickleball’s spreading popularity at numerous retirement communities and recreation vehicle parks and resorts throughout the nation and the increasing number of enthusiasts in all 50 states.

But the game has also left a trail of detractors and spawned studies to determine if the sport meets noise regulations. It has also sparked a lawsuit seeking to bar a New Mexico golf and country club from modifying tennis courts for pickleball.

Worth Pondering…
Pickleball Lyrics

Well…, meet me in the morning, meet me in the evening, meet me at pickleball time

Be my pickleball partner and we’ll have a good ole time.

Meet me by the kitchen, meet me at the baseline, meet me by the net, -that’s fine

Be my pickleball partner and we’ll have a good ole time.

Go and grab your paddle, and swear to your friends around

You’ll be loving pickleball, ‘til the end of time.

Let’s play in the morning, let’s play in the evening, let’s play anytime

We’ll play pickleball and have a good ole time.

Don’t smash the pickleball, don’t smash the net, don’t hit your opponent – in— the head

Meet me in the morning, meet me in the evening, meet me for pickleball time

Just meet me at the baseline, any ole time

Now pickleball time…is played – anytime ……

— that you are near– that you are near don’t you fear…don’t you roam……

Please don’t roam…up to the kitchen zone-alone.

And don’t LAND in the no-ooooo volley zone

Meet me in the morning, meet me in the evening, meet me at pickleball time

Be my pickleball partner…and …

We’ll have,

We’ll have,

Yes, we’ll have a good ole time

It’s Pickleball – Pickleball – Pickleball – time

—Singing Pickleball Pete

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What’s to Love About Pickleball?

“It’s the fastest-growing game in the country,” said Robert Hayes, a devout pickleball player and president of the Venture Out Condo Association. “I love the game.”

Robert Hayes, 69, serves during a pickleball game at the Venture Out RV Resort in Mesa. Norman Cudney, 78, is at right. (Credit: Tom Tingle/The Arizona Republic)

For player Don Bogle, a Mesa resident and one of the game’s 350 ambassadors for the USA Pickleball Association, the sport is “addictive,” The Arizona Republic reported.

“You get such an adrenaline rush that it’s like a runner’s high,” he said.

Many people unfamiliar with the game marvel at the recent growth of a sport that was created 46 years ago. The game’s biggest surge has evolved over the past five years since the Pickleball Association, an all-volunteer group, was founded, said David Johnson, the association’s spokesman.

“They’ve put a lot of effort into building the sport and promoting its growth throughout America and Canada,” said the Seattle-area resident who turned his part-time pickleball equipment-sales business into a full-time enterprise two years ago.

“And when snowbirds are introduced to the sport in places like Arizona they go back home to states like Michigan and introduce it to their friends. Michigan is now one of the more popular states to play pickleball,” he said.

“We hear a lot from recreation departments interested in revitalizing underutilized tennis courts,” Johnson said. “Pickleball generally draws a different audience than tennis and usually an older demographic.”

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a fast paced, easy game to learn and very similar to tennis, yet easier on older joints. As a matter of fact it can be played on a tennis court with a few minor conversions.

If you build it, they will come. Wayne & Nancy Muggli built this pickleball court in their yard in Montana. (Credit: Pickleball Stuff)

Pickleball combines elements of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong (table tennis), and is played on a court with the same dimensions as doubles badminton. It is played as a singles game with one person per side or more commonly as a doubles game with two people on each side of the 36 inches high net.

Each player uses a hard-surface paddle (total length plus width of the paddle cannot exceed 23¾ inches). The object of the game is to score points by successfully hitting a three-inch-diameter polymer (plastic) ball that is perforated with holes (similar to a whiffle-ball) across the net without it being successfully returned by the opponent (s).

Served with an underhand stroke, the ball must bounce before it can be returned on the serve and must bounce before the second return. Games are played to 11 points.

Over time the rules of the game have become more sophisticated but when first developed, pickleball was a simple game designed for all ages and any athletic ability level.

History of Pickleball

After playing golf one Saturday during the summer of 1965, Joel Pritchard, congressman from Washington State and Bill Bell, successful businessman, returned to Pritchard’s home on Bainbridge Island (a short ferry ride from Seattle) to find their families sitting around with nothing to do.

The property had an old badminton court so Pritchard and Bell looked for some badminton equipment and could not find a full set of rackets. They improvised, cutting shafts of the damaged rackets and found a perforated plastic ball. The rackets didn’t work very well, so the dads created four wood paddles, similar to today’s wood paddles. At first they placed the net at badminton height of 60 inches and volleyed the ball over the net. As the weekend progressed, the players found that the ball bounced well on the asphalt surface and soon the net was lowered to 36 inches.

Pickleball is a racquet sport which combines elements of badminton, tennis, and table tennis. The game is played with a hard paddle about twice the size of those used for ping-pong and a wiffle ball, making the technique required for pickleball different than other sports. (Credit: Toronto Sports Council)

The following weekend, Barney McCallum was introduced to the game at Pritchard’s home. Soon, the three men created rules, relying heavily on badminton. They kept in mind the original purpose, which was to provide a game that the whole family could play together.

The Pritchards had a cocker spaniel named Pickles, who became interested in this new game. Whenever a ball would come his way, he would take the ball and run off with it, because you see, it was Pickle’s ball.

And, as they say, the rest is history!

Worth Pondering…

Rules for ALL to Play Pickleball

First of all, if you recall, the name of the game is Pickleball.

Pickleball is a weird name but garners attention by its mere mention.

So what if the creator’s dog, Pickles, chased the ball, thus created the name for us all.

All you need is 20 x 44 feet; a 3-foot net and you’re ready for a treat.

Now grab a paddle and use the wiffle ball for your battle.

But to avoid looking like fools, first, you must understand the rules.

The proper score and server number you must state.

Until it is announced, serving the ball must wait.

A second time ‘serving early’ in that game will be at great cost,

As it could result in a point being lost.

So, state your score first and then the score of your foe.

Whether you are the first or the second server on your team, you must also know.

3 – 2 – 1 means you are ahead and the 1st server, for that series, on your team.

That’s simple enough it would seem.

But whoa!

It is important to also know

That rule to remember is simply:

“HAVE FUN!!!”

—Wayne J. LaPointe

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