The nation’s fastest growing sport now has two official courts in Freeland.
South Whidbey residents Paul and Abi Tschetter identified a void in the community when it comes to professional pickleball facilities. So, they decided to open one of their own.
Their new business, Whidbey Pickle Barn, will be open to members and visitors starting in January. Until then, the pickleball curious can take advantage of the December Preview, which offers almost daily sessions through the end of 2023 at a discounted rate. It’s also a good chance to check out the indoor, climate-controlled courts.
“For those people who really play a lot, we were wanting to do something different so you could play as much as you wanted to on the South End,” said Abi, who identifies herself as a casual player of the sport.
Her husband, Paul, is a more avid player who got bitten by the pickleball bug a few years ago.
“The ironic part is I just had no interest in it, and basically somebody invited me to play once,” he said.
With Washington state being the birthplace of pickleball, the Tschetters have been surprised that there aren’t more dedicated facilities within the area.
Paul joked that with just two courts, their facility is “Whidbey Island sized.”
“We’ve got a good core of hardcore players, but part of the heart behind this was to bring more people into the fold and be a part of the community,” he said. “When you don’t have a place, it’s pretty hard to do that.”
Players will utilize an online reservation system, which allows them to play with their friends or a group of random people during specific time slots, or for certain skill levels. The building will be open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. most days, apart from major holidays, and accessible with a key code that’s unique to each reservation.
In addition, instructor Timm Sanford will teach a range of clinics at the facility for beginning, intermediate and advanced players.
“Anyone can play. I teach an 8-year-old all the way to an 82-year-old. You don’t have to be athletic to play,” he said, adding that one of his best students is an artist who has not played other sports.
“Get one or two good shots and you’re coming back,” Sanford said.
Paul pointed out that it’s a sport with not a lot of financial barriers – you need a decent pair of shoes, a paddle and a plastic ball. Whidbey Pickle Barn will provide loaner paddles for newbies.
“Our hypothesis is, pickleball’s so hot, there’s a ton of beginners that want to play,” he said.
There’s also plenty of humor to be found in thwacking around a large, brightly colored plastic ball.
“There’s not a time where we play – and we play three, four times a week – where you’re just on the ground laughing, because there’s a funny shot or an amazing shot or you get hit in the head with a ball,” Paul said. “You’re always giggling about something.”
Players can opt for an annual membership, which costs $1,200, or monthly membership, which is $75 with an hourly court fee of $2.75. Visitors pay an hourly fee of $12.50.
Memberships become active starting Jan. 1, Whidbey Pickle Barn’s official opening date. To play in December, sign up as a visitor on whidbeypicklebarn.com, then reserve a drop-in or open play session for just $10, which is 60% off the regular visitor rate.