Pickleball Comes to Central Park

Pickleball courts at Leif Ericsson park in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. Photo by Daniel DiDonna.


As of April 3, the organization CityPickle has taken over the Wollman ice Rink in Central Park and turned it into 14 pickleball courts. Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States right now, as almost 5 million Americans are playing pickleball.

Pickleball is a game similar to tennis in that the objective is to hit a ball over a net without letting it touch the ground more than twice. It can be played in singles or doubles, and anyone can play it. However, it does differ a bit from tennis.

“Pickleball is just faster, it’s cheap, all you need is a paddle and a ball, and it is a lot easier for people who don’t know how to play it right away…. I don’t think you need to be athletic to play, I think that it is a good way to have a good time with friends and family,” said Alexis Sandro, who was recently playing with his friends who were enjoying a sunny day in April.

While Sandro has been playing pickleball for a while now, some New Yorkers haven’t even heard of the sport, let alone how to play it. This was the case for Phil Luna who works in Central Park and is slowly trying to learn the game.

“To me it looks like tennis, just smaller… it just feels like tennis would be more physical and intense then this… you know I’ve been watching for a few weeks now and always wanted to try it, but I just wouldn’t know what to do it looks complicated,” said Luna.

On the surface, pickleball can look confusing or intimidating to someone who has not been playing, but if you are taught the right way it can be a rather easy sport to pick up.

“A lot of people are confused when I first tell them the rules of pickleball, but I always tell them the best way to learn is to just play,” said Pasty Lemoel, a pickleball coach from Staten Island.

Lemoel only recently started coaching, but has been playing for a few years and believes that pickleball is a game that anyone can play.

“You know I don’t think that this is a sport just for old people. I mean I can understand why people may think that it’s not as physical or as demanding as other sports. But I think that’s why anyone of any age can play it,” said Lemoel.

While pickleball has grown nationwide, it has been rather slow to pick up in New York City.

There are some courts like the ones in Bay Ridge and Crown Heights, there are other neighborhoods like Red Hook and Astoria who barely even have one. So, while CityPickle has given this space for people to play and learn about pickleball, some believe there is still more to do.

“I think people would notice it more if there were more outdoor courts, especially in the spring and summer the only one that we go to is in the city and its indoors… we already have a lot of handball and tennis courts around I don’t think it would be that difficult to add a pickleball court,” said Sandro.

CityPickle will only be open until October 4, 2023, as it will then turn back into Wollman Rink for the winter.