By Chris Faulkner
After a year-and-a-half wait from the initial planning stage, Fort Madison has opened up six pickleball courts at Victory Park at the corner of 24th Street and Avenue H.
That was the site of the former tennis courts, the surface of which began buckling years ago to the point of being unplayable.
Those courts were removed, and the playing area was expanded to accommodate the new pickleball courts.
The Fort Madison Pickleball Association, formed to secure funding for the courts, will have a grand opening Sunday, July 16, at 2 p.m.
There is no cost to play, and paddle holders are in place to reserve a spot when the courts are full.
For those without equipment, the Fort Madison Public Library can check out paddle sets, up to 20 available.
“We’re just really glad that the project has come to fruition,” said Donna Amandus, chairperson of the Pickleball Association. “We have a little more left to do. But all in all, we’re extremely happy with how the courts turned out.”
The Fort Madison YMCA has indoor courts where 25-30 individuals play at varying frequencies.
The outdoor courts became available in mid-June, and lights were recently installed as a donation by Mohrfeld Electric. Still to come are wind slats to reduce the impact on the wiffle-like balls used in play.
“We believe they are by far the nicest courts around,” Amandus said. “Proof of that is the number of players we’re seeing come from out of town.”
She said the courts have been busy, given that school is out, and it is now an option for people who work during the day.
The project to put in pickleball courts began in the fall of 2021 when the Fort Madison Parks Board approved the design by the pickleball committee.
The city was assured by then co-chair Bev Brockman that the Fort Madison High School and Holy Trinity Catholic tennis courts would be available to the public because the Victory Parks would be removed.
Ten months after that decision, the courts, fencing, and light posts were removed. A shelter house had to be taken down, as well as some trees to make room for the new complex.
The project was on hold over the winter because the NOVA-play surface needed a certain temperature to be installed.
The city gave the organization $50,000 toward the estimated cost, and Amandus said the final cost was more than $320,000.
The Association used donations from individuals, businesses, and grants to finance the new courts.
The city is responsible for maintenance.