SEARCY, Ark. — The city of Searcy has accepted a bid on a multi-million-dollar park renovation to become a sports destination. Part of a park past its prime will soon become a pickleball paradise.
“Pickleball is hot right now,” explained Searcy Mayor Kyle Osborne.
It’s the fastest-growing sport in America which is one reason Searcy believes it’s a smart investment. Where decades-old tennis courts once stood, now lies rubble. A year from now six tennis courts and eight pickleball courts will have completed construction.
The project is funded primarily through a 2019 tax that voters approved to promote tourism. That tax formed the Advertising and Promotion Commission which is footing 86% of the project and the City of Searcy is funding the remaining 14%. The total contract for the project is $2,664,345.
David Martin lives in Searcy and was using Berryhill Park’s playground to entertain his daughter Wednesday when Delk Construction was awarded the contract for the renovations.
According to Martin, “It doesn’t seem like that much money, and I’m usually pretty critical of where my money goes.”
Searcy has no pickleball courts now. The only ones they have are at Harding University where tennis courts are converted through sky-blue lines on a blue play space.
David Redding is a professional pickleball player and the Harding University tennis coach who said fans of the sport usually describe it as “addicting”.
“You’re closer together. It’s very social. It’s very fun, and there’s an easy learning curve,” Redding explained.
He is excited about the opportunity the renovation will allow for tournaments. They include a concessions building and plus more restrooms, and if the tennis courts are marked for pickleball, Berryhill Park could potentially host 20 games at once.
Martin said you can’t find many places, “You’d have to go to Florida. You’d have to go to Arizona. You’d have to go to some of the places that have a lot of retirees and retirement resorts.”
“I feel like once those are a thing, it will bring people out into the park,” expressed Jacob Wood, a Harding University junior.
He discovered the sport as a student, but brought it back to his family in Ohio and quickly realized how popular it was.
“People from my age to older than my parents all on the same court,” Woods described
It is that untapped potential Searcy is hoping will make this investment serve returns for years to come.
The renovation will also improve Berryhill Park’s electrical grid which will make the city’s Christmas display even merrier, and if you would like to give your input on what Searcy improves next, the local government is hosting a community survey for their 20-year plan. You can fill out both surveys here.
“We’re rolling. We’ve got things going, and we just hope to sustain that,” Osburne concluded.