In case you haven’t noticed, pickleball courts are springing up in the Bitterroot like mushrooms after a forest fire. It’s mostly got to do with the incredible transformation of Rick Trauth from an ordinary unassuming Bitterroot entrepreneur into a pickleball maniac who is as smooth talking as the Music Man. In this case the band didn’t get any uniforms. Uniforms don’t seem to be big among the pickleball crowd, it’s more of an individual expression type sport. But they did get nets, balls and some spanking new courts to play on.
If there’s one thing that pickleball players need, it’s other people to play pickleball with and a place to do it. Wondering how best to introduce his new passion to the Bitterroot community and being from the Stevensville, Trauth’s eyes fell upon Lewis and Clark Park and what he saw was not some decrepit and little-used tennis courts with basketball goals at each end and cracks running through the asphalt like small canyons. No, he saw the future. He saw some resurfaced pickleball courts and set about making that vision a reality.
With the approval and cooperation of the Town of Stevensville, the old tennis courts were resurfaced and painted, creating three pickleball courts and leaving the basketball goals up for those so inclined.
By paying a $25 annual membership fee ($40 per couple), a person can access the nets and balls stored at the park and play to their heart’s content.
Publicized training workshops were held and the response was astounding, according to Trauth. Adult Education classes were offered at the Stevensville school and 18 players were trained. The ten-week long class met once a week and concluded in March.
So many people got interested that when Old Man Winter put an end to play at Lewis and Clark Park, the group moved indoors and set up a schedule of play at the Nazarene Church in Victor. Trauth said that 20 people at a time attended the sessions held on Saturday mornings and Monday evenings.
Then people in Hamilton began to express an interest. Trauth said they met in March with the Ravalli County Commissioners and leased the First Interstate building at the Fairgrounds and set up five indoor courts.
“It’s been very well attended,” said Trauth, “from 20 to 50 people a day and growing.” There are two sessions, one from 12 to 3 p.m. and one from 6 to 9 p.m.
Trauth said that what’s driving it all is that people love to be active and to be social. It is not a sport that requires extreme physical exertion. But it gets you moving and engaging with other people.
Trauth said he was recently approached by Bob Cron and Gary Leese of the Ravalli County Park Board about setting up some courts at the Daly Mansion. That led to about 20 hours of work power washing the old tennis courts and painting in some pickleball courts. The courts are being leased from the Mansion and are open for pickleball play Sunday through Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“It’s a beautiful place to play,” said Trauth.
Trauth said that people really enjoy organized play. According to Trauth, some of the best players in the country, Ron and Shonda Davidson, are teaching workshops here. Trauth, himself, is now a U.S. APA Ambassador.
“The whole thing’s grown in a lot of ways,” said Trauth. “Attendance is growing and lots of teaching is being done.”
A highlight for the summer will be the pickleball tournament planned at the Lewis and Clark Park during the annual Creamery Picnic celebration.