With the provincial government stepping forward with matching funds, the Pickleball Posse's dream of having new dedicated outdoor pickleball courts will soon become a reality.

Last Friday, Banff-Cochrane MLA Cam Westhead presented $124,669 in matching funds from the Community Facility Enhancement Program (CFEP) to representatives of the skyrocketing sport and to Igor Visser, president of the Cochrane Settlement Community of East Cochrane.

Now it is hoped six outdoor courts will come into play late this fall, preferably between the Frank Wills Memorial Hall and existing tennis courts in East Cochrane's Quigley Park.

Joanne Ferster, who pursued the CFEP grant, was thrilled when approval came through and was especially appreciative of the assistance of the program's personnel.

The club had to withdraw their application after town council had axed funding from the 2018 budget. In January, the club successfully lobbied council to have the $125,000 budget item reinstated and were fortunate enough to have CFEP officials allow them to resubmit so it could be considered immediately. Had they not done so, the Posse wouldn't have received a yay or nay until August. 

"Kudos to them for bending the rules a bit," says Ferster. "We're thrilled."

In total, the club has raised about $253,000 towards the project and will assist the town in any way possible during construction. They may also be doing further  fundraising to add other common features.

"We may do some additional fundraising if we don't have enough funds to have a wind fence or separators," she says.

In addition to the grants, the Posse appreciates the corporate support received by Dr. Ziegenhagel & Associates Family Dentistry, Fenton Automotive, Cochrane Eyecare Centre and Cochrane Sport Physiotherapy & Massage, says Ferster.

Avid pickleballer Les Franke says Ferster's hard work put the project over the top. 

"It's been a few years trying to put this together successfully. Mostly Joann's hard work and dedication to this has made this come to fruition," says Franke. "We're very excited about it and obviously we would like to see it happen as soon as possible, but we're going to work with the town and do it right the first time to make sure everybody is happy with the product."

Once a site is finalized, construction will take about 1 1/2 months. That means they may see some play in the fall, depending upon the weather, but expect to be in full swing next season.

As soon as the snow came off the courts, many pickleballers went outdoors after packing the courts of the SLS Family Sports Centre in colder weather.

"Yesterday (May 3). there were probably 28 people out here playing pickle. We had all four courts going," says Ferster. "Today there's a whole bunch of people coming out this afternoon and as the days get longer we'll start playing later into the night."

Franke, who spent some time with Pickleball Canada along with his wife Nikki, says outdoors is where people prefer to play and this project helped grow the club from 30 members to almost 200. 

"There's been a huge growth and mostly in the last year or so when we tried as a club to take it outdoors," explains Les. "It's a huge sport outdoors in the States and most people prefer to play outdoors, so we're trying to get that steamrolling here."

Besides providing badly needed space for local pickleballers, the courts will have an economic impact. 

"It's going to benefit the community as it does in most other centres that have pickleball courts," says Franke. "We're going to invited people from all over the province and other provinces and they'll come and spend money in hotels and restaurants and the community will benefit."

Igor Visser, Cochrane Settlement Community president, says their neighbourhood was quick to throw their support behind the project. The pickleball group is unincorporated and the settlement association allowed them to funnel the money through their organization.

"It's adding something to our community. This is another thing that makes our community a great place to live," says Visser.

He's also pleased to see the town is resurfacing the adjacent tennis court in desperate need of work. These courts are used for both tennis and pickleball. The other tennis court in town, located in William Camden Park just off Glenbow Drive, is exclusively for tennis and will also be surfaced.


Posse Rounds Up Approval for Pickleball Funding