Marie Jo Steinkamp (left) and Barb Middendorf tap paddles after they score a point. As organizer Marcie Tiefenthaler explains,  “we have a lot of laughs out here.”
Marie Jo Steinkamp (left) and Barb Middendorf tap paddles after they score a point. As organizer Marcie Tiefenthaler explains, “we have a lot of laughs out here.”

August 4, 2017

On a bright sunny morning, badminton-sized balls sail through the air as women whoop, smacking their partner’s paddle in excitement before returning to game mode. Using an area half the size of a tennis court and balls made of plastic, the game of pickleball has grown nationwide and has now found its way into the Carroll community.

Carroll resident Marcia Tiefenthaler began playing pickleball years ago in Eloy, Arizona, where she spends her winters. In Eloy, they have 16 pickleball courts to accommodate the 250 members, she said. Now, they want double it to 32 courts. “I started playing and it’s just fun — it’s for any age group. We had them coming from 12 to 85 years old,” Tiefenthaler said.

Tiefenthaler has been discussing the idea of pickleball with a few Carroll City Council members over the past few years in hopes to bring pickleball to Carroll. As of right now, the Carroll Recreation Center tapes off courts for pickleball to be taught, and this summer, Jack Wardell, the city’s parks director had someone from Midwest Tennis and Track in Denison come down to paint pickleball lines on the tennis courts at Northwest Park.

Tiefenthaler said it isn’t ideal. The tennis courts are about twice the size of what real pickleball courts are, so they are having to do more work to chase errant balls. Tiefenthaler and her group of girls that have taken up the sport want to be outside for as many months out of the year as possible. They hope to see courts outside in a park in Carroll, starting with four with room for growth.

“You can’t start too small. You have to at least start with four and be in an area where you can expand,” she said.

Wardell has been working with Tiefenthaler to come up with a plan on how to present this idea to the council. He explained that they need to put together a budget and look into a location of where they would like see the courts.

In other areas of Iowa like Des Moines and Atlantic, pickleball courts have been set up, and the popularity of the game is growing, but no other communities close to Carroll have anything like it.

Teachers in schools like Carroll High School have began to teach the sport. City Councilman Jerry Fleshner has been working with Tiefenthaler to help her form ideas to present to the council. Fleshner explained that his son, Matthew, told him about it years ago after he played it in gym class. Fleshner said his son presented the game to him as something that people of all ages in Carroll would have interest in. Fleshner explained that he tries to provide services to the Carroll community, and pickleball seemed like a good idea.

Fleshner has received calls from former Carroll residents that play it in places such as Wisconsin saying it was successful in their town. He also met with people in both Atlantic and Des Moines who felt it was growing more and more popular.

“Any chance that you have to provide a facility or an event that they cannot necessarily make in their own backyard — any time the city can provide that kind of service, and there’s enough interest, I think it’s a good idea to pursue things like that,”  Fleshner said. “Think if cities never built basketball courts. Think how much society and people’s interest is in basketball courts. This is just another extension for people to take an interest in an athletic event.

Anything that helps them physically — as far as I’m concerned — it’s a good thing.”

Another City Council member, Carolyn Siemann, thinks that Tiefenthaler is on the right track to present her pickleball idea to the Council. Siemann was initially contacted by Tiefenthaler two years ago and believes the interest in the game has accelerated.

“I think it started to take off at the Rec Center, and now it is coming together,” she said.

Tiefenthaler has done a good job lobbying for the sport, she said, but now she wants to see her and her ever-growing group come together and present their ideas to the Council.

“I think it would pull people into Carroll,” Siemann said. “I think it would make us more of a destination for those kinds of things. The more we have, the more attractive we are.”

As of right now, Tiefenthaler is constructing various ways to get grants from the state with hopes the city of Carroll will match whatever she comes up with. She has been scouting out various locations around Carroll for the park to be built. She has also put together a Facebook group so that anyone with interest in playing can contact a member and join the team. About 10 women get together on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings to play, but they are hoping their pickleball team continues to expand.

“I think Carroll needs this,” Tiefenthaler said. “People are seeing us here, and they’re saying, ‘What are you guys playing?’ So there will be interest.”