Group hopes to make Mequon, Thiensville a pickleball hotspot

A group of Mequon and Thiensville residents is hoping their communities will expand the number of pickleball courts as officials have in Cedarburg, right.

THIENSVILLE - Calling it “more than just a game,” a group of pickleball enthusiasts are pushing for more courts in Mequon and Thiensville.

One player, Jim Reilly, took his case directly to the Thiensville Village Board earlier this month.

 ”It’s very social. There’s a lot of fun, a lot of laughing. There aren’t many activities like it,” he said. “While you do work up a sweat, a lot of players are going to stop afterwards to grab a coffee, to get breakfast. The local businesses would do well.”

Pickleball combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong and is played both indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net, according to USA Pickleball.

Reilly and Ozaukee County USA Pickleball Ambassador Chris Korjenek want to turn the two existing tennis courts in Thiensville Village Park into potentially six pickleball dedicated courts.

“We wanted to pitch to them the idea,” Korjenek said about the recent meeting.

However, that isn’t the only location on which they have set their sights.

It was late last year when Korjenek and Lowell Barkan, a local 80-year-old avid pickleball player, began talking to many people about the overall pickleball scene in Mequon and Thiensville, hoping to show elected officials and anyone who wants to listen that there is a tremendous demand for the sport.

“People in all corners of the state are jumping on the bandwagon because the game is very easy to pick up, there are low barriers to entry, it is inexpensive to play and can be played by all ages,” Korjenek said. “Pickleball courts would be a fantastic amenity to provide in a community where parks are plentiful and completely supported by residents.”

Continuing to notice a growing support for the sport as well as the several tournaments and professionally run programs taking place all across the state, Korjenek felt it was finally time to act locally.

She started by making a list of people who play in the Mequon-Thiensville area who would support new courts.

The list quickly grew to roughly 250 people.

Korjenek also compiled information on the general cost of resurfacing a court, estimating that the project  at Thiensville Village Park could cost up to $250,000. 

Korjenek presented other findings to the city of Mequon and the Mequon-Thiensville School District — which runs the Mequon-Thiensville Rec Department.

“When doing our presentation, we were looking at a few more locations like Virmond Park, Rotary Park, Lemke Park and Red Barn Park,” she said, finding out the city was already discussing plans to resurface an existing basketball court in Rotary Park to make it dual purpose for both basketball and pickleball use.

Range Line Recreation could also become a pickleball hotspot, Korjenek notes, as the MTSD is in talks to add eight pickleball courts, a basketball court and restrooms in addition to the two existing baseball diamonds. She estimates the total cost would be $500,000 for that project.

Other potential locations include Concordia University and Athlete Performance.

“There’s a bunch of conversations that are in play right now regarding where in Mequon and Thiensville we can get some courts to meet this explosive growth for pickleball, so that’s where we’re at,” Korjenek added.

While there is obviously much more work to be done, especially when it comes down to figuring out the costs, Korjenek is hopeful for what the future has in store.

“If we could get approval from one of those two entities (the village or the rec department) to move forward and start fundraising, and if we could get a couple of significant sponsors to help out, I’m very optimistic we could get more courts in 2023,” she said.

Village President Van Mobley said the idea is "exciting" and he supports the group’s efforts, but acknowledges it will cost money, a chunk of which needs to come from private funding.