Local picklers aren't the only winners with the imminent launch of a major 20 court pickleball development in the Greystone community. It's anticipated to become destination for other players.

Yesterday, Tanya Fir, Minister of Arts, Culture and Status of Woman, officially presented the Alberta government's contribution of $997,287 towards the $2.2+ million pickleball park.

Pickleball groupThe $997,227 oversized cheque was presented to the pickleball club yesterday. From left, Peter Guthrie, Josh Hagen, Tanya Fir, Joanne Ferster, Nikkie and Les Franke, Greg Young, Guy Desmarais and Kim Burns.

"Pickleball is a sport that's growing so fast, and I love that it's a sport that young and old can play, regardless of their physical ability and what it does for building community," said Fir.

"A facility this big allows for tournaments to come to Cochrane and that helps the economy," she said. "That helps the local hotels and restaurants. It's a win all around."

In addition to 18 regulation-size courts, the park includes two courts for those with physical disabilities. It will be among the first in Canada.

joanneJoanne Ferster discusses the new project with Peter Guthrie and Tanya Fir.

Joanne Ferster, vice-president of the Cochrane Pickleball Club, thanked the government, and the many others who made this dream come true.

"This generous grant has infused our community with great energy and optimism, enabling us to share the joy of pickleball with many more Albertans of all ages and abilities while also contributing to the future commercial prosperity of Cochrane," said Ferster.

She praised Kim Burns, Guy Desmarais and Josh Hagen, of Entity One, the landowner and developers of the Greystone Community, who not only matching the grant but covered the cost of the sound attenuation required before the project could get underway.

"Your support is truly invaluable," she said. "Your vision to build Greystone in Cochrane as the “ultimate mix of live, work and play” is about to become a reality."

The need for sound attenuation arose after the grant application, and the club thought completing the necessary fundraising could possibly delay the project. Fortunately, Greystone stepped forward.

Hagen says they didn't hesitate to step forward.

"A huge component of what makes Greystone, Greystone is the play. Being blessed to have the rec centre next to us with a million-plus visitors a year, we took advantage of that from the outdoor recreation perspective by including 20 pickleball courts, a basketball court, playground and two baseball diamonds."

The courts and the basketball courts are side-by-side, and just a stone throw from the SLS Centre. The ball diamonds are being constructed further east.

Cochrane's booming pickleball community likely outgrew its four outdoor courts on the East End even before they opened. Currently, they have those courts booked weekdays from 9 to 5 p.m. and have had to cap their membership at 265 so not to exceed their capacity.

Additional pressure will be on those courts this summer with the closure of the tennis court in William Camden Park to allow for the upgrading of the trail through the Glenbow community. Picklers won't be able to use the tennis court next to them on 1st St. E. something they have resorted to in the past.

But that will all be in the past next season, thanks to the development.

Local MLA Peter Guthrie arranged a meeting between Joseph Schow, minister of Tourism and Sport, and the club's representatives to discuss the proposal.

"This group did a bang-up job in presenting their case for an event park that is really going to be able to attract people from all across the country, maybe internationally. This is really going to put us on the map as far as pickleball is concerned."

He joked about how his backstroke needs work during the ceremony and confirmed afterward it's a sport he intends to play more frequently.

"I've only played a couple of times, but I'm going to have to get out here and start learning this game."

Minister Fir admits she hasn't played before, but is eager to learn.

"I'm absolutely going to have to take it up," she said. "Everyone I talk to seems to play it so I'm going to have to learn so when we come back for the grand opening I can do some moves." 

The Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP) funding was announced in January, and with all the i's dotted and t's crossed, ground is expected to break on the project within days.

Josh Hagen, of Greystone, says construction will begin within a few days and is expected to be completed in the fall. The club intends to hold a grand opening in the spring.