Before he discovered pickleball, Tom Meier worried that he might lose his tennis partner.
Meier, a 70-year-old West Linn resident, and his friend Tim Catlin, 78, had played together for many years before Catlin injured his shoulder, thus rendering him unable to serve overhand. But then, early this year, Meier discovered pickleball — which, depending on how you think of it, can be likened to a smaller version of tennis or a giant game of ping pong.
"I introduced (Catlin) to the game and he was really ecstatic about playing a racket sport when he had practically given up the racket," Meier said. "Now he's an enthusiastic devotee and giving lessons."
Yet as Meier and Catlin grew to love the game, they found themselves frustrated with the lack of places to play in West Linn. They decided to work with the City's Parks and Recreation Department and the USA Pickleball Association in an effort to change that, and saw the fruits of their labor come to life at the grand opening of West Linn's first pickleball facility at Tanner Creek Park July 4.
"Everything looks really good," Meier said. "We had a brief introduction (June 29) with some kids hanging around, and some of the folks we met (playing) in outlying areas. Youngsters, oldsters, it's just a great game for everybody."
The four new pickleball courts were striped on the existing tennis courts at Tanner Creek Park. In conjunction with the grand opening, Meier and Catlin have also started a West Linn Pickleball Club that offers annual memberships. Group sessions are scheduled to take place five days a week.
For Meier, who still plays tennis as well, pickleball is a rare game that is strenuous without the soreness that comes with so many other sports.
"The biggest difference, and why it's so popular with the senior group, is you have about 25 percent of the area to cover compared to tennis," Meier said. "It's like a giant game of ping pong, you're always moving, and moving sideways. You get a good workout, you don't have to work too hard and it's easy on the joints."
Meier expects the courts to gain popularity in quick order, and says he can envision more pickleball facilities in the city's future.
"It's going to become more popular as people realize there's a venue in West Linn, and we're going to have to look at other places to play," Meier said. "We first looked at Sunset Park, and that's probably a very viable option. It's not a very attractive tennis facility because the fences are short, and you lose a lot of balls.
"We'll see what the demand is and we'll capture another venue if we can."
There is, of course, a concern about rancor from tennis players who feel their space is being overrun. But Meier isn't too concerned about that.
"We'll have more and more resistance from tennis players as the movement grows, but I think we can coexist," Meier said.
The true beauty of pickleball, in Meier's eyes, is in its inclusiveness.
"It's beautiful to be able to see kids enjoying their grandparents," he said. "It's not often you can share an athletic endeavor with little kids."
Courts are open during regular park hours, and the club is set to play Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Tuesdays and Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m.; and Sundays from 9:30 a.m. to