North Platte Pickleball offers fun for all ages

One of America’s fastest growing sports has an active presence here in North Platte.
Published: Apr. 14, 2021 at 8:03 PM CDT
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NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP) - Pickleball is a relatively new sport that is quickly growing in popularity. Here in North Platte, the fast paced game has found a home. North Platte Pickleball has expanded rapidly since it’s inception, growing from twelve members to now over sixty. It’s a good thing too, because the group has big plans for the future.

“We realized that we don’t have outdoor courts, so last year on June twenty third we met with the Mayor and decided to go out and raise funds to completely rebuild the courts at Memorial Park. We are hoping for the completion date to be around May fifteenth, so we can start playing on our four newly dedicated pickleball courts with permanent nets,” said NP Pickleball founder Barb Baldridge.

Former North Platte Mayor Dwight Livingston has become an advocate for the sport. As a public servant who cares deeply for the community, Mayor Livingston believes an active pickleball presence stands to benefit North Platte greatly. Particularly, the hosting of tournaments that bring in travelers to help stimulate the local economy.

“It’s good for our community, it’s going to be fantastic. It brings people here that are going to stay in our motels, they’re going to eat our food, and they’re going to do some shopping here, so it’s nothing but good,” said Livingston.

After taking some time off to heal an injury, Mr. Livingston stands to return to the court at the inaugural NebraskaLand Days Cowboy Pickleball Tournament this Summer. The tournament will kick off with the “Mayor’s Cup,” featuring a match between Dwight Livingston and current North Platte Mayor Brandon Kelliher. There will also be a local celebrity tournament, in addition to the regular competition spanning a variety of ages and skill levels.

“It’s going to be a three day tournament that will kick off June 24, 25, and 26, so Thursday, Friday, and Satuday. We’re looking to bring in over one hundred teams,” said Samantha Geisler, with the North Platte Area Sports Commission.

Samantha will be competing in the celebrity tournament, along with many others, if the group reaches their target participant number. North Platte Pickleball embraces the mindset of “the more the merrier.”

“What I like most about pickleball is the kind of people that play it. Everybody encourages one another...It’s about having fun, that’s rule number one,” said NP Pickleball’s Gary Westphal.

In addition to a number of health benefits, the sport is easy to learn and NP Pickleball provides everything needed for play. The group takes the court five days a week, and their members wouldn’t want it any other way.

“It makes me smile and just brings a lot of joy in my life,” added cancer survivor Rebekah Odle.

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