It's not every day that Randy Splitt, recreation supervisor at the Libertyville Sports Complex (LSC), receives suggestions for new sports offerings from patrons; particularly from a group of senior citizen ladies.
But that's exactly what prompted Splitt to quickly organize the necessary infrastructure for the complex's most recent sports addition – pickleball.
"We were thrilled to have a whole group willing to come in and try a new sport at our complex," Splitt said. "Our initial concern was that we had to create a playing surface using our current equipment."
In 2009, Splitt began working with the "pickleball ladies," as they are affectionately known at the Sports Complex, from the Del Webb community in Mundelein to get the ball rolling. Though they are known as the pickleball ladies, the team includes both men and women.
"We brought the pickleball idea to Randy. We gave him all of the research and the background and he offered us a free trial," said Kay Ritchie, a former Libertyville resident.
Ritchie says that she and 30 other pickleball players have played the game for years on Del Webb community's outdoor courts and maintain a chartered pickleball club.
What they couldn't find was a place to play indoors when the weather turned cold.
"Randy and the Sports Complex staff were very accommodating," Ritchie said. "The complex is helping to serve and grow this new sport."
Splitt said he and the LSC staff used floor tape to set up the courts and then purchased special bands that would meet the specific pickleball net height requirements, but also allowed for easy conversion to a volleyball court.
Since the Del Webb pickleball group formed a year ago, two more groups have signed up, keeping the facility's four courts busy Monday through Wednesday mornings.
"This is our time," Ritchie said. "It's purely social and recreational; but also a great form of exercise."
Now every Wednesday morning, two groups from the Del Webb community gather at the Sports Complex to play the game they love.
"We have few restrictions – anyone can play, there are no age limits. But you cannot bring your grandchildren," Ritchie joked.