CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) – Six new pickleball courts are now open at LeTort Park in Carlisle, Pennsylvania following a successful fundraising effort by the Carlisle Area Pickleball Association (CAPA).

“It’s a huge gift [to the community],” said Jackie Powell, an organizer of CAPA. “We figured [there was] about 600 man-hours of volunteer labor, and with materials that were paid for from the club we probably gifted to the community somewhere in the neighborhood of $35,000-$50,000 worth of value.”

Seven months ago CAPA became a 501(c)(3) and within that time they were able to raise enough funds and recruit volunteers to update and expand the pickleball facilities at LeTort Park. The money came from donations from members of CAPA and the community, money that was placed in the LeTort pickleball court swear jar and generous donations from local companies.

“Truly people opened up their wallets,” Powell said. “We were able to raise enough money to not only complete the refurbishment of that other tennis court into four [pickleball] courts but also to [redo the others] because it wasn’t going to match.”

On Monday night a celebration was held for the opening of the new pickleball courts. The six courts are the most in one area in Cumberland County.

“Pickleball is such a social game that you don’t want to have like one [court] here, one there,” said Barb Adams, a USA Pickleball Association district ambassador for the south-central Pennsylvania region. “Because it’s a social game, it’s important that you have as many courts as you can at one spot.”

The history of pickleball in Carlisle dates back to 2015. Lessons were held that year for the first time at the Stuart Community Center. Then in 2016, the tennis courts at Mooreland were taped to double as pickleball courts.

One of LeTort’s tennis courts was redone in 2017 to serve as two pickleball courts and the one remaining tennis court was lined to double as pickleball courts. In 2020, from anonymous donations, portable nets were placed in the courts and permanent pickleball lines were painted on the tennis court.

Once everything was in place to begin transforming the courts to permanent pickleball facilities, the community stepped up.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into as far as the amount of help,” said Terry Throne, who executed the construction of the courts. “I show up the first day and I’ve got 20 people and it was amazing. A lot of them didn’t know what to do, but they took instructions and they worked their butts off.”

Throne said people kept coming day after day to volunteer their time and effort to make the courts come together.

“Every day it totally blew my mind the amount of help that these guys did out there,” Throne said. “It was a huge community event because everybody was involved.”

The LeTort pickleball courts are already serving as an inspiration for other communities on what is possible for their own parks. Throne said that other boroughs and townships have approached him and the team to find out about the process of making pickleball courts.

“[Letort Park] is a great venue because the building [next door] cuts the wind, there are trees for shade, there is good parking and it’s not too close to neighbors,” said Michael B. Kline, a longtime member of the Carlisle pickleball community. “Very suitable spot.”

The pickleball community is constantly growing. Powell said they see players in their teens all the way to people in their 80s.

Throne said part of the attraction is the community that forms from playing pickleball.

“We play pickleball, but then we get together afterward and we go out and get something to eat,” Throne said. “It is amazing how this sport has taken off because it’s just a lot of fun. We’re also seeing it’s not just for the older people. The young kids are in here having a blast and we love playing with them.”

There are currently 77 courts in Cumberland County, 56 of which are considered dedicated courts. With the new LeTort Park courts featuring six playing spaces, the sport and the community intertwined with it will continue to grow in Carlisle

CAPA is already thinking about the future. They have plans to install handicap-accessible gates for the courts next year along with adding a concrete pad next to the courts that will feature benches and planters.

They are also planning on working with Parks and Rec to bring pickleball tournaments back to LeTort Park. Tournaments were previously held when there were only two dedicated courts, but that was stopped in part due to the work involved in transforming the tennis courts into pickleball courts for the event. Now with the permanent facilities, it will be easier to bring the community together for friendly pickleball competition.

“I can tell you these courts mean a lot to people because it took a lot of people in the community, not just in Carlisle, but some neighboring communities [too] coming together to get this job done,” Adams said.