People in East Alabama are turning to nontraditional sports for recreation, exercise and a lot of fun

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By Mark Clark

The time has come for Phenix City Parks and Recreation to broaden its thinking when it comes to the types of programs it is offering its citizens – all citizens, not just kids. The days of offering just baseball, softball and tennis are over. People are beginning to turn to nontraditional sports. And, those sports are the fastest growing competitive games.

“We have really had to adjust the way we think about the programs we offer. This summer, we have added three new sports that, so far, are gaining popularity,” Todd Hughes, Phenix City’s Parks and Recreation Director.

Hughes says two of the new nontraditional sports have already begun. The third one begins this week. The city is offering Church League Kickball, an Ultimate Frisbee League and Pickleball.

While all three are nontraditional and new to the offerings of the local parks and recreation department, all three are sports – in some form – that most people have played all their lives, mostly as children. The good thing about all three of the new sports is that they are available to be played by anyone of any age.

“With fewer people playing some of the traditional sports, we have to find new ways to re-purpose our facilities. Pickleball can be played just about anywhere there is enough space to set up a court. We can play kickball on baseball and softball fields. The Frisbee games are played at Garrett-Harrison Stadium when it is not being used for football,” Hughes said.

Depending on the amount of interest in these sports, the parks and recreation department will decide whether to form leagues to compete with each other around the city. All three of the sports are able to be played without purchasing a lot of additional equipment. In fact, the parks and recreation department will provide equipment for some of the sports.

Pickleball is newest and the most costly of the three sports being offered. Hughes says the city has some equipment that may be used by participants, but the equipment will have to be shared. People who enjoy playing the sport may want to purchase their own paddles which can be made of wood or composite materials.

Recently, a Phenix City native and 1998 Central High graduate – Chad Dean – partnered with a Columbus, Ga., tennis pro – Mike Ruzeski – to win the 3.5 division at the Peachtree Corner Lifetime Fitness Pickleball Tournament. Dean, like Hughes, was introduced to the sport in college.

The initial Pickleball games will be played at the Cliff Farrar Tennis Complex on Airport Road across from Idle Hour Lake. If there is a need, more courts may be laid out at the Idle Hour Tennis Courts or maybe even at the Roy Martin Center. There are other potential locations for courts if needed, according to Hughes.

“It all depends on how well-received the sport is here. We used to play it a little with our younger recreation kids,” Hughes said.

Church League Kickball is played at Sandfort Road Park and the Ultimate Frisbee League is played at Garrett-Harrison Stadium on Summerville Road.

For more information on Pickleball, Church League Kickball and the Ultimate Frisbee League contact Jessie Hammett at 334-291-4713.