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Austin is soon to be home to Texas' biggest pickleball facility, and for good reason. With leagues cropping up around the city, the sport is quickly being embraced by Austinites of all age ranges and skill levels.
If you haven't quite caught onto the new pickleball craze, here's a breakdown of everything you need to know before picking up a paddle.
What is pickleball?
A mixture between ping-pong, badminton and tennis, pickleball is a hybrid sport played on an indoor or outdoor badminton court with a slightly adjusted tennis net. The paddles are pickleball-specific but resemble ping-pong paddles, and a pickleball that resembles a wiffleball is used to play the game.
It's fun because it was designed to be. Three Seattle-area dads created the game to satisfy their easily bored kids in the summer of 1965.
The dads, Washington state Congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell took to an old badminton court to pass time during the dog days of summer and eventually became more into the game than the kids. Using ping-pong paddles and a wiffleball, the two improvised a new game heavily influenced by badminton and brought in Barney McCallum as their accomplice.
Their purpose: providing "a game that the whole family could play together."
What do I need?
Aside from a paddle and a wiffleball-esque pickleball, not much. As long as a pickleball or badminton court is nearby, everything's pretty much all set, and portable pickleball nets are also available. Pickleball does not require special uniforms or extra equipment, so the most important element to the game would be the pickleball paddle itself.
Here's a list of the 15 best pickleball paddles in 2021.
Where can I play?
Pretty soon, Austinites from all around will have access to Texas' largest pickleball facility.
Austin Pickle Ranch, which is expected to be finished this summer, will have 32 pickleball courts as well as non-pickleball facilities for sand volleyball, concert venues and outdoor pilates.
Until then, the city of Austin has a dozen pickleball locations dotted across the city.
Here are a few city locations alongside a some other community courts:
- Alamo Recreation
Center, 2100 Alamo St.- three outdoor, covered courts, with open play on Thursdays from 3–4 p.m.
- Austin Tennis Center, 7800 Johnny Morris Road- eight lighted outdoor courts with permanent nets.
- Bouldin Acres, 2027 South Lamar Blvd.- a hotspot for the city's pickleballers, Bouldin Acres is a restaurant and bar with two pay-to-play pickleball courts.
- Conley-Guerrero Senior Activity Center, 808 Nile St.- one indoor court, with open play pickleball on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1-5:45 p.m.
- Dittmar Recreation Center, 1009 W. Dittmar Road- four indoor pickleball courts, with free open play from 12-3 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday.
- Dottie Jordan Recreation Center, 2803 Loyola Lane- two outdoor courts and one indoor, with open play from 2-5 p.m. on Wednesdays.
- Gus Garcia Recreation Center, 1201 East Rundberg Lane- One indoor pickleball court, with open play from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on Saturdays.
- Hancock Recreation Center, 811 E. 41st Street- one outdoor court shared with basketball, no net provided.
- Little Zilker Neighborhood Park, 2016 Bluebonnet Lane- some outdoor courts, no net provided.
- Mt. View Neighborhood Park, 9000 Middlebie Road- two outdoor courts shared with tennis courts, no net provided.
- Pan American Neighborhood Park, 2100 E. 3rd Street- three free-lighted outdoor courts.
- Rosewood Neighborhood Park, 2300 Rosewood Ave.- two outdoor courts shared with tennis courts, no net provided.
- South Austin Recreation Center, 1100 Cumberland Road- four indoor courts, with open play from 6-9 p.m. on Mondays. Two additional lighted outdoor courts.
- Bethany Lutheran Church, 3701 W Slaughter Lane- Two indoor courts, $2 admission fee.
- Cedar Park Rec Center, 1435 Main St.- Six indoor courts, $5 admission fee, with beginner's play from 9-11 a.m. on Mondays and open play from 8:30-12 p.m. on Tuesdays and Fridays.
- Jewish Community Center, 7300 Hart Lane- Four indoor courts, $10 admission. Schedule: (JCC members free) 6:30-9:30 p.m Thursdays, 10 a.m.-1p.m. Fridays, 8-11 a.m. Saturdays.
- The Quarries, 11400 N. Mopac Expy- three indoor courts, with open play at scheduled times throughout the week.
- Veteran's Park, 2200 Veterans Drive- four outdoor courts, with open play from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays.
If you're looking to make it more competitive, several leagues of all skill levels are in play right now. Some leagues feature scheduled games and teams, provide equipment and uniforms, while others, called ladder leagues, have people play others of similar skill levels until they reach the top.
Here are a few leagues:
- Greater Austin Pickleball- For a $25 yearly fee, you can join the Co-Ed Winter League, going on now.
- The Austin Sports & Social Club- No league going currently, but co-ed leagues of all skill levels meet later in the year.
- Pickleball Ladder League at Hill Country Indoor- For $60, you can join a spring league, but it is already underway. The league began on Feb. 26 and will continue through April 30, with members playing with players of similar skill levels and moving up the "ladder" if they do well. Access to the pickleball courts at the club are $40 monthly and offer unlimited access to courts even if not a league member.
- 2021 Top 100 Pickleball League- players who register can challenge any player in the league at any point, with scores tallied up at the end of 2021.
More leagues and locations can be expected as pickleball mania continues. As Austin waits impatiently for the highly-anticipated Pickle Ranch, there's still plenty of pickleball to go around in the capital city.
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After Austin voters passed Proposition B, reinstating a ban on public camping, City Council directed staff to look into possible sanctioned campsites where homeless residents could live legally. Now two members are asking to shelve discussion on the controversial topic.
Staff presented dozens of possible sanctioned campsites across each fo the 10 council districts in late May, following the election. But members mostly pushed back on the proposed locations, citing cost, wildfire risk and lack of transparency as concerns.
With updated criteria, staff recommended two sites—one in District 1 and the other in District 8—for further review last week. After being briefed on the options during Tuesday's work session, Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, who represents District 1, and Council Member Paige Ellis, who represents District 8, issued a joint statement proposing "a pause" on further discussion of temporary sanctioned encampments.
"We are not convinced that these sites would be a cost-effective solution, but rather a band-aid tactic when we need to be supporting the long-term strategy to get folks off the street permanent," they said. "It is our responsibility to look at the situation holistically and objectively, and to spend out city's limited resources on solutions we know can work."
Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Grey noted that the two locations were imperfect and would require a lot of time and money to outfit as sanctioned campsites during the briefing.
City staff and homeless experts have previously raised concerns about sanctioned encampments, saying they are expensive to maintain, challenging to manage and hard to close, even when intended to to be temporary.
In 2019, staff declined to make recommendations for such sites despite being directed by council to do so, citing 2018 guidance from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. "Neither authorized encampments nor parking areas provide housing for people experiencing homelessness," staff wrote in a memo. "Rather, each option detracts from the staff resources assigned to addressing this moral imperative."
But with Prop B being enforced and too few shelter beds and affordable units for the estimate unsheltered homeless population in Austin, the city is facing the same predicament that prompted District 9 Council Member Kathie Tovo to pursue possible sanctioned campsites in the first place: "When individuals in encampments ask where they should go, we need to have places to suggest," she said at a May 6 council meeting.
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Don't lose your mask just yet—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it is now recommending masks in areas that are surging as cases rise nationwide and the Delta variant looms.
The CDC announced Tuesday that even fully vaccinated individuals should mask up indoors if their community is experiencing substantial transmission—defined as areas with more than 50 cases per 100,000 people. Travis County is sitting at an average of 94.59 cases per 100,000 over the past seven days, falling into the highest risk category, according to the CDC.
#DeltaVariant surging in U.S. New data show Delta much more contagious than previous versions of #COVID19. Unvaccinated people: get vaccinated & mask until you do. Everyone in areas of substantial/high transmission should wear a mask, even if vaccinated. https://t.co/tt49zOEC8N
— CDC (@CDCgov) July 27, 2021
After two COVID-19 recommendation stage jumps in the last two weeks, from Stage 2 to Stage 4, Austin-area cases are the highest they have been since February. The seven-day average for cases is on an upward trend, reaching 226 on Tuesday.
The CDC is also recommending that all students K-12 wear masks indoors, regardless of vaccination status. A May executive order by Gov. Greg Abbott prohibits schools from requiring masks, regardless of vaccination status. Austin ISD is "strongly" encouraging students to wear masks.
Although vaccinated individuals are still protected against the most severe symptoms of the variant, infections are spreading rapidly and now make up 83% of confirmed cases in the U.S. At least a dozen cases of the delta variant have been confirmed in the Austin area, though there are likely more since testing for it is limited.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said that hospital admissions are "almost exclusively" coming from people who are unvaccinated but those who are vaccinated can still catch and spread the virus.
"Unlike the alpha variant that we had back in May, where we didn't believe that if you were vaccinated you could transmit further, this is different now with the Delta variant," Walensky said. "That leads us to believe that the breakthrough infections, rare that they are, have the potential to pool and transmit at the same with the same capacity as an unvaccinated person."
Research suggests those who become infected carry 1,000 times more of the virus than other variants and could stay contagious for longer.The announcement comes on the heels of the Biden administration ramping up cautionary measures in the face of the Delta variant. Just last week, the CDC said it had no plans to change its May guidance of vaccinated not having to wear masks unless there was a significant change in the data. Officials met on Sunday night to review new evidence, according to reports.
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The Moody Center, a $338 million, 530,000-square-foot multipurpose arena at the University of Texas at Austin, celebrated its topping out on Tuesday.
With the final beam placed, the arena's steel-frame structural phase—which involved more than 5.3 million pounds of steel—is complete.
"This past year has been full of unprecedented events, not to mention weather challenges, and yet the women and men working on this project continue to deliver," Moody Center General Manager and Senior Vice President Jeff Nickler said in a press release.
To celebrate the topping out Oak View Group, the development and investment firm behind the Moody Center will affix a tree to the final beam in keeping with the time-honored tradition.
The practice dates back to ancient Scandinavian religious rites, which involved placing a tree atop new buildings to appease tree-dwelling spirits displaced during the construction process, according to the International Association of Bridge, Structural and Ornamental Ironworkers in Washington D.C.
After the steel-frame structure phase, the development will move on to enclosing and finishing the interior of the Moody Center.
The arena is set to open next April and already has some major acts scheduled for its inaugural year, including The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, John Mayer and The Killers. It will replace the 43-year-old Frank C. Erwin Jr. Center and serve as the home of UT's men's and women's basketball games, among other sports and community events.
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