ARLINGTON — The Arlington Common hopes to build a pair of regulation pickleball courts on its campus — and if the nonprofit can raise $20,000 for that cause in 60 days, the state will provide $40,000 more in grant funds.
The two courts and an outdoor community gathering space would be on the two-acre Arlington Common campus, the former St. Margaret Mary Catholic parish.
The vision goes beyond pickleball: It’s also intended as a place for residents to meet and connect with neighbors and friends, and for programming for adults and children.
The fundraising drive started Thursday, meaning supporters have until July 17 to raise the local 33 percent share. As of Thursday midday, $2,500 had been raised by 12 patrons.
“After the past few socially distanced years, it is even more evident that the Arlington community needs a place where all feel welcome to gather and participate in fitness and social activities that encourage collective experiences,” the fundraising page says. “Finding common ground isn’t always easy, but it brings us closer to joy! Help us create the Arlington Common Ground project to enhance the entire community’s fitness, social interaction, and well-being.”
Bill Bullock, the treasurer for Arlington Common, said the organization had settled on pickleball given the popularity of the sport in town, support for the idea from the Battenkill Valley Health Center and the need for a suitable court.
“Our rec park has pickleball courts but they’re chalk lines on an old parking lot, and the net is broken out of overuse,” he said. “There’s latent demand out there.”
“Battenkill Valley Health also sees this as a driver to get folks outdoors and active, and pickleball fit the bill,” he said.
If the Better Places fundraising challenge succeeds, the grant will allow Arlington Common to create two courts, complete with professional court surfacing, nets and fencing. There would also be seating and additional gathering spaces for players and spectators. Bullock said the courts will be where the parking lot is now, near the former parish center. If an existing fund drive for a proposed wellness center succeeds, it’s possible the new courts could be covered with a pavilion, getting players out of the elements, and connected to the wellness center. Bullock said the Better Places grant is ideal, because it limits the maximum gift size for the community — none over $7,000 — and will hopefully build grassroots support for the plan.
“As a celebration of the court construction, we will co-host beginner clinics with Battenkill Valley Health Center and Arlington Memorial High/Middle School for all community members,” the organization said in a social media post. “Also, we will host tournaments to bring visitors into our community, boosting our local economy and benefiting other development plans for the Arlington Common.”
The drive follows a successful first event for Arlington Common, as last month the inaugural Battenkill Fly Fishing Festival drew about 300 people to town. That event included a film festival and art show on the Common campus. Pickleball is played on a badminton-sized court by up to four people with paddles and a plastic ball. It’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S., as it allows people to remain active without requiring a great deal of running.