New pickleball complex planned for Perham
The new eight-court pickleball complex will allow for 30 people to play at once, and with subbing, it could handle 45–50 players. It will also allow Perham to host tournaments
The Perham Pickleball Club is working with the city's Park Board to expand and repurpose the aging tennis courts at Arvig Park — which are due for a redo — for the exclusive use of pickleball, which has become increasingly popular.
The new eight-court complex will feature individually-fenced pickleball courts to keep balls from crossing into other courts and interfering with games. The courts will still be lighted and shielded from the wind by trees on three sides, as the existing tennis courts are now.
Pickleball first arrived in Perham in 2014, when the Perham Rotary helped paint court lines onto the Arvig Park tennis courts. Local participation in the sport grew rapidly from there, and the Perham Pickleball Club was formed.
Club member Alan Krueger said that when he started playing pickleball that first year, there were only about six or eight local players. As of this fall, more than 200 people had played in Perham, and this past summer alone, the game was played more than 100 times at Arvig Park.
"We had one little tournament for 16 players this year (and) we put a notice out and asked for interest in the tournament at 1 p.m. By 8:30 that night, it was full," Krueger recalled. "People were reaching out the next morning, and I had to tell them it was full."
Substitutes were able to play in the tournament, so a total of 20 people participated. A crowd of spectators showed up to watch, and Krueger adored the atmosphere.
The new complex will allow for 30 people to play at once, said Club President Brad Offutt, and with subbing, it could handle 45–50 players. Having eight courts will also allow Perham to host tournaments, which Offutt and Krueger believe will bring more visitors to town and be an economic plus for the community. Already, with the existing courts, pickleball has drawn in people from Fergus Falls, Battle Lake, Alexandria and other towns.
"When you go on vacation as a pickleball player, you look for places where you can play," Offutt said. "We had one (vacationer who came to Perham this year) tell us he was going to book the same resort next year just to come and play pickleball here again."
"We are trying to bring the people into the community; that was our goal (with the pickleball courts)," Krueger said. "This isn't just a facility for players that want a place to play. I look at it as something that's a benefit for the whole community… (The city says) 'make Perham your destination,' and pickleball is a great fit."
Offutt and Krueger said they've talked to a number of tennis players about the change, and most were excited to learn about it, especially now that kids are being taught how to play pickleball in school. Many of the tennis players the two spoke to said they usually play at the school.
Construction of the new complex is estimated to cost $240,000. As of Oct. 25, more than $106,000 had been raised for the project. The Perham Athletic Association, Perham Area Foundation and Arvig each committed a court sponsorship of $20,000. Several more court sponsorships are still available. Complex naming rights — which will be recognized with prominent signage — are $50,000, and a sponsor board of varying displays is available for donations of $100–$19,999.
Demolition on the existing courts will likely begin this fall or winter, with construction on the new facility starting next spring. Offutt and Krueger hope for the project to be finished in time for the summer 2022 playing season.
Anyone interested in playing pickleball, or in learning how to play, may contact Offutt at 507-269-3977.
To make a donation to the Perham pickleball project, visit the Perham Area Community Fund online giving page at wcif.org/fund/paf , or mail donation checks to: West Central Initiative, PO Box 318, Fergus Falls, MN, 56538-0318 (write "Perham Pickleball Project" in the memo line).