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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘Anyone can play’: Pickleball’s astronomic rise reaches Wichita State

Mia Hennen
The Wichita State pickleball courts on Sept. 12. Most nights, the court was packed with casual players and teams.

On any given night near the Heskett Center courts, passersby can hear the familiar popping of the latest sports craze — pickleball.

Pickleball is a paddle-based game that is played with up to four players on both indoor and outdoor courts, and according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, the sport has grown in popularity and participation by over 158% over the past three years. 

In the greater Wichita area, that popularity is reflected in the Chicken N Pickle that opened in 2019, and the pickleball courts at the Heskett Center that opened in the fall of 2021. In addition, the City of Wichita approved the building of a $6 million pickleball facility in South Wichita.

Dylan Basinger, a sophomore exercise science major, said that he and his friends sometimes have to wait up to an hour for a court to open up at the Heskett Center.

Basinger said pickleball is a great way for him and his friends to get together and get outside.

“I think it’s a sport that anyone can play,” Basinger said. “Like you can have some people that are really good at pickleball playing with some pretty casual players, and it still just works pretty well. Everyone’s out here, just having a good time.”

Hao Dang, a former Wichita State student who now works as a barber, said that he and his friends come to the Heskett Center courts more frequently than any other because it is easily accessible.

“It’s free, that’s a big one,” Dang said about the draw of the Heskett Center courts. “It’s fenced in so that if the ball does go out compared to (somewhere) like Edgemoor (Park), it will go flying everywhere. And there’s lights on, so you can stay here as long as you want. We’ve been here as late as like 2-3 a.m.”

Both Basinger and Dang point to the Chicken N Pickle on 13th and Greenwich opening in 2019 as the beginning of their pickleball playing. However, they both said that the space quickly became overcrowded and expensive.

“We had went to Chicken N Pickle a lot when it had first opened, so I think it was just, you know, an exciting thing to do,” Basinger said. “But getting in there on the weekend is kind of a pain.”

According to the City of Wichita’s Parks and Recreation department, there are 11 public sites to play pickleball outside of Wichita State, and more continue to emerge all over the city. 

Some of these sites require a small fee to enter, and others are completely free.

“We have basically a park that has some type of pickleball court on every corner, and I’ve seen some random ones pop up out of nowhere,” Dang said. “It’s even a surprise to me, who has been playing pretty consistently for a while now.”

According to Wichita State’s Campus Recreation website, registration for intramural pickleball is open now and closes on Sept. 15.

“I think there’s definitely a space for that at this university,” Basinger said.

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About the Contributors
Trinity Ramm, Managing Editor
Trinity Ramm is the managing editor and former sports editor for The Sunflower. This is her second year on staff. Ramm is a senior English Lit major and a sociology minor with a certificate in film studies. In her limited spare time, she can be found at the movie theater, browsing some obscure film database or crocheting. Ramm uses she/her pronouns.
Mia Hennen, Editor in Chief
Mia Hennen is the current editor in chief for The Sunflower. Before becoming editor, Hennen was the news/managing editor. They are a junior at Wichita State majoring in English and minoring in communications and Spanish, hoping to pursue any career involving writing or editing. Hennen uses they/them pronouns.

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