NORTH LITTLE ROCK -- Construction is underway for 12 pickleball courts at Burns Park in North Little Rock.
The North Little Rock Parks and Recreation Department hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking for the courts on Friday. Construction is set to finish in June.
North Little Rock engineering is the contractor for the project and the city has alotted $750,000 to complete it.
Chris Wilbourn, the city's engineer, is overseeing the design and construction management of the project.
"The popularity of pickleball is very strong and we are designing these courts to a professional level, so that if Burns Park ever wants to hold pickleball tournaments, they can," he said.
The city's Parks and Recreation director, Steve Shields, said the community has taken up pickleball at the North Little Rock Community Center gym and is ready for the larger courts.
"This has been a priority of the city of North Little Rock and Mayor [Terry] Hartwick as we've come to realize that pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the world," he said. "And when you see the numbers out there, there is a growing population of all ages that want to have access to pickleball courts."
The courts will strictly be for pickleball and will be for free use upon opening. Shields said the city plans to charge for tournaments as other pickleball associations do.
North Little Rock won't be the first city in the state with outdoor pickleball courts.
Since 2019, the city of Fort Smith constructed outdoor pickleball courts at Chaffee Crossing, where two old tennis courts were upgraded and put to use for pickleball, said Jeff Dingman, deputy city administrator in Fort Smith. The city acquired them, and they are now part of the city's parks system, he said.
Dingman said Friday in an email that "due to the rising popularity of pickleball we continue to look at other areas for inclusion of pickleball courts. Specifically, master planning future phases of John Bell Jr. Park on Riverfront Drive may include up to 14 pickleball courts."
In Little Rock, Kanis Park added six pickleball courts in 2020.