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Recreation center hosting a new racquet sport

MIDDLEBURY — This spring, visitors at the new town recreation center in Middlebury will enjoy their favorite sports in the new facility off Creek Road. In addition to regular classes and pickup games in various familiar athletic endeavors, a new sport will also be available. 
Middlebury, meet pickleball.
Pickleball is a racquet sport similar to doubles tennis that is played either indoors or out on a playing area roughly the size of a badminton court 
“The idea is it’s for anyone of any age,” said Middlebury town Recreation Director Terri Arnold. “Anyone can do it because it doesn’t take as much of a toll on your knees.”
The sport originated in 1965, invented by Washington Congressman Joel Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell for their bored family members. The equipment was improvised with pingpong paddles, an old badminton set and a wiffle ball.
The “pickle” portion of the name came from the name of one of the inventor’s dogs.
The sport gained national attention in 1976 when Tennis magazine ran an article on what it called “America’s newest racquet sport.” The first pickleball tournament was held that same year in Tukwila, Wash. The USA Pickleball Association was organized in 1984. 
The new recreation center has two designated pickleball courts that are open to the public. Middlebury College also has two courts. Mary Hogan Elementary School received a grant to construct an outdoor court on the recreation fields adjacent to the town tennis courts in the place of a backstop.
Arnold said local interest in the sport has been growing. Last spring, 20 people attended a free outdoor clinic and more have responded with interest in another free clinic taught by Betsy Almeter and Bruce Byers. A date and a location for the clinic has yet to be set. The recreation center also plans to offer weekly drop-in lessons open to the public.
The goal, Arnold said, is to include residents of all ages.
“For active seniors it’s very attractive,” she said. “We’re trying to reach the younger community and we’re hoping pickleball will increase their tennis ability.” 

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