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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Republic Square Park has turned into a Ford-themed fiesta for its Built to Connect pop-up experience, complete with test drives, off-roading and an inside look at the Tesla-rivaling electric vehicles that the motor vehicle company is planning to integrate over the next decade.
The outdoor driving event is free, open to the public and will stay in the park from now until Oct. 24, offering rides on Bronco Mountain, a 0-40 mph zip in the 2022 all-electric Ford F-150 Lightning and a chance to win an original Ford Bronco.
The event kicked off with a panel of speakers, including Austin Director of Transportation Rob Spillar, Ford General Manager Darren Palmer and engineering specialists discussing Ford's goals to make it so that 50% of the vehicles on the road are electric by 2030.
As an eco-conscious city, Spillar said that around 4,000 vehicles, or 22% of the Texas electric vehicle market, as well as over 15,000 plugins lie in Austin, meaning driving electric just got accessible.
"Austin, as you know, is a fast-growing modern city that is committed to protecting the long term health and viability of our communities and strategies that reduce greenhouse gases, mitigate the effects of climate change and improve the drone quality of life here in Central Texas for all of our residents," Spillar said.
And Ford's electric vehicles are putting up some steep competition for newly-Austin-based company Tesla. The new electric Mustang Mach-E and F-150 Lighting offer amenities that used to be exclusive to Musk's brand, such as the BlueCruise self-driving network. The cars also boast a 300-mile range on a single charge, assisted reverse technology and access to the biggest charging network outside of the home.
Plus, Ford's got affordability on its side. The F-150 Lightning starts at $39,974 and the Mustang Mach-E starts at $42,895, while the cheapest Tesla model, the Model 3, starts at $41,990 and averages 262 miles on a single charge.
Speaking of price, the numbers on the electric vehicles may look like a little more than you'd like to pay for your transport, but Palmer promises it will pay off. In addition to a $7,500 tax credit you can earn for your sustainability, you'll never have to buy a pricey tank of gas again.
"Personally, I have not found one customer ever, who would go back to gas so that says something," Palmer said. "I realized, at $51,000, that car outruns every childhood hero car I ever had."
Texas buyers: take note. The Ford Lightning can power your house for three to 10 days, just in case the statewide power grid fails. You can take it glamping with you, so you don't have to leave the comfort of modern life behind, and in a pinch, Palmer said he's even seen a wedding party powered by the truck.
Ford is investing $30 billion into the U.S. market to meet demand by 2025 and the new electric truck already has over 150,000 reservations.
"I think they're going to take off much faster than you expect—they're going to be extremely, extremely popular next year," Palmer said. "With the incentives that are available today, this is starting to become more mainstream and viable for more and more families. We couldn't have done that before, we didn't have the technology, or the technology at that price."
The event is ongoing through next weekend from 12-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.- 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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The Austin Police Department is searching for a man who is believed to be behind a series of robberies that is "sexual in nature and is escalating."
Three robbery cases that took place in North Austin within a 30-day period are being investigated by police, who report the victims all had similar descriptions for suspects in the case. The suspect is described as a 20-25-year-old Spanish-speaking Hispanic man, approximately 5'3, thin build, recently shaved with black hair. Police say he is known to typically wear athletic clothing and used a knife on each of the victims.
Here's a breakdown of the cases:
1. At 7:56 a.m. on Sept. 22 at the 1600 block of Rutland Drive, a woman was walking alone and returning from her child's school when a suspect walking by inappropriately touched her. The suspect then grabbed her by the arm, threatened her with a knife and demanded "her property."
2. At 8:10 a.m. on Oct. 11 at 1700 block of Colony Creek Drive, a woman was walking to her child's school when a man approached her with a knife and then demanded her personal items. The suspect then said he would return the items in return for sex.
3. At 11:03 a.m. on Oct. 13 at the 9300 block of Northgate Boulevard, a woman was with her child in the laundry room of an apartment complex when a man walked in performing a sexual act. The suspect demanded personal items from the victim, threatening to hurt the victim and take her child.
Police cautioned the public to walk without earbuds, stay alert and report suspicious activity to the police.
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