Newly finished pickleball courts sit in place of the upper tennis courts adjacent to Mary Gaston residence hall, providing students a new recreational opportunity.
A growing love for pickleball among the student body inspired the tennis court renovation. When BJU’s vice president for student development and discipleship Dr. Alan Benson heard about the student body’s interest in pickleball from his daughter, he felt inclined to do something about it. From there, executive meetings armed the possibility of renovation and the project started.
“This whole thing has become an amazing collaboration between student life and our athletic department,” Dr. Benson said. Sophomore Kayle Stevenson avidly plays pickleball with a group of peers at BJU regularly. “We are very inclusive [and] always looking for people who want to come out, so don’t be intimidated,” Stevenson said. She describes pickleball as a “hybrid between tennis and ping pong.”
Stevenson’s interest in pickleball began when she worked at courts in her hometown of Hilton Head, South Carolina. “I’ve watched how pickleball has transformed communities here,” she said.
The timing of the tennis court renovation has had an added benet since it provides outdoor space compatible with COVID-19 guidelines. “Because of all the social distancing protocols [due to] Covid-19, it is a nice way to still interact with others,” Stevenson said. Dr. Benson expressed similar thoughts on the addition of the pickleball courts, particularly during a pandemic. “We want [the courts] to be a gathering spot, [and] COVID-19 makes [the pickleball courts] being outdoors that much more valuable,” Benson said.
Additional plans to renovate the second tier of tennis courts, as well as add additional society sports, are in the works. Students should expect to see multi-sport courts and 9-hole putt-putt in the future. New society sport options this year will include dodgeball and pickleball. The words “Home Court” stand out boldly on the walls of the courts to represent the idea that BJU is home to its students and that the courts provide a part of that atmosphere.