Popular pickleball might be coming to King Playground

Shawn Hardy
Echo Pilot

Local pickleball players are raising money to bring the popular game to Jerome R. King Playground in Greencastle and take advantage of a matching gift up to $20,000 from an anonymous donor.

“For those of you who are asking the question: What is Pickleball? It is simply the fastest growing sport in America,” says a fundraising letter from Lon Barkdoll, playground board president, and Fred Heefner and Dave Bonebrake of the pickleball group.

Community countdown: Name a flower, remember 'Mr. B' or pick up a paintbrush during OHW

A century of wisdom:100-year-old Alma Hoffman advises people to write things down

“It is very popular among older adults (younger folks, too) and is played on a court approximately half the size of a regulation tennis court so there is much less running with easier court coverage by the participants,” the letter continues.

About two dozen people, including a handful of regulars, play the up-and-coming sport on the tennis courts at Antrim Township Community Park, but it is not a great fit, Heefner said.

A fund-raising effort is underway to convert two tennis courts into pickleball courts at Jerome R. King Playground in Greencastle.

Tennis courts are larger, so players spend more time chasing the ball, defeating the purpose of the fast-paced game that’s a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong.

Two pickleball courts can fit on one tennis court. The two south end tennis courts at the playground are in disrepair, and the plan is to convert them to four pickleball courts.

Last year, the two north end tennis courts were renovated thanks to donations from the Paul and Anna Shockey Family Foundation and JLG Industries.

How to help the pickleball project

Estimates put the cost for the pickleball courts at $45,000, and the goal is for the project to take place in spring 2023.

The playground is a 501c3 non-profit organization, so donations are tax-deductible. The letter notes that the pickleball effort is separate from the playground’s annual fund drive.

The 15.5-acre playground on North Carlisle Street has three large picnic pavilions with playground areas for children, three basketball courts, the two newly renovated lighted tennis courts, a small tee-ball field and the traditional baseball diamond with the iconic grandstand located in the center of the playground.

“The addition of these pickleball courts would truly enhance and broaden the recreational facilities that already exist at the playground,” the letter says. “Our primary focus is to provide a safe and clean environment for the public to enjoy recreational opportunities and family gatherings.”

Donations, with “pickleball” in the memo line can be mailed to P.O. Box 2, 240 N. Carlisle St., Greencastle, Pa. 17225.

For more information, call Heefner at 223-205-7965, Bonebrake at 240-675-8827 or Barkdoll at 717-597-8526.

How JLG helped renovate the other tennis courts

Like the south tennis courts, the north courts had been looking bad for a number of years.

The board decided to put out feelers, mentioned the project in the annual fund drive letter in 2021 and received two donations to renovate the tennis courts — both linked to JLG Industries.

The Paul and Anna Shockey Family Foundation donated $25,000 and JLG contributed $10,000.

In 2021, the two north tennis courts at Jerome R. King Playground in Greencastle were renovated thanks to donations from JLG Industries, represented by Richard Wright, left, and the Paul and Anna Shockey Foundation, represented by Bonnie and Ken Shockey, center. At right is Lon Barkdoll, president of the playground board.

Paul Shockey was a founder of JLG and his son, Ken, said he thinks the combination of the two to fund the tennis court renovation is neat.

Ken’s wife, Bonnie, said the playground has been at the center of the community for kids since it opened in 1923.

David King, a prosperous Chicago businessman and big fan of Old Home Week, donated $5,000 in 1922 to memorialize his brother, Jerome. With the help of community donations, the playground was ready in time for Old Home Week the following year.

Richard Wright, a playground board member, works at JLG and oversees the board that makes donations.

“Our primary goal is to give back to the communities where team members live. That’s our priority,” Wright said.

The donations, along with a $5,000 Antrim Township park and recreation grant, covered the cost of the project, which included new asphalt finished in a blue-and green color scheme and new center court poles and nets. It was finished in fall 2021.

Shawn Hardy is a reporter with Gannett's Franklin County newspapers in southcentral Pennsylvania — the Echo Pilot in Greencastle, The Record Herald in Waynesboro and the Public Opinion in Chambersburg. She has more than 35 years of journalism experience. Reach her at shardy@gannett.com