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Picklers tickled with new courts at Smith Fields

by JULIE ENGLER
Whitefish Pilot | June 12, 2024 1:00 AM

The popularity of pickleball has exploded in recent years and now there are six, new green and purple pickleball courts for players to enjoy at Smith Fields in Whitefish. 

The racket sport is a mixture of tennis, badminton and ping pong. The hollow, rigid plastic ball with holes resembles a wiffle ball and the game is played on a 20-foot by 44-foot court.

Whitefish resident Carol Atkinson spearheaded the project and began fundraising two years ago after approaching Gloria Nelson, executive director of Project Whitefish Kids, the nonprofit organization that runs the Smith Fields Youth Sports Complex.

“I went to Project Whitefish Kids and said, ‘Do you want pickleball courts at Smith Fields? Because if you do, I'll raise the money,’” Atkinson said. 

She was given the go ahead and on June 7, just one year and two days after construction began with the stripping of the sod, supporters of the project gathered to toast the new courts.

“We’re excited to see the park really become a community hub,” Nelson said, noting that the sport attracts people of all ages. 

Smith Fields provides space for soccer, baseball, pickleball, a playground and soon, the new North Valley Music School. Project Whitefish Kids is completely privately funded with support coming from donations, grants, player fees and volunteer work.

“To continue to live in this amazing place, we need to continue that generosity and culture of philanthropy,” Nelson said. “It’s what makes us unique.

“The Performing Arts Center, the O'Shaughnessy, The WAVE, the food bank, the dog park, the ice rink and Smith Fields — all those are funded by the generosity of our community.”

    Players enjoy a game on the new pickleball courts at Smith Fields. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)
 
 
Six, new green and purple pickleball courts opened to the public on Saturday, June 8. (Julie Engler/Whitefish Pilot)