Thanks to some surprise dollars, Westerville can accommodate its fastest growing sport in the city's expansion of Hoff Woods Park.

In July, council approved the expansion plan which was expected to cost about $1.6 million. But during preparation for the work, Trucco Construction Co. reportedly discovered that less earthwork would be required to fix the topography at the site, resulting in savings of more than $30,000.

With that savings, the city was able to add in four pickleball courts for about $68,000, joining two baseball/softball fields and three soccer fields as planned additions in the project.

The pickleball courts were part of alternatives for the original plan, but were deemed too cost-prohibitive, along with new bathroom facilities, which would have cost even more.

But when the savings were identified, parks development manager Laura Ball said the courts were the first thing the city wanted back in the plans.

"It (pickleball) is a growing sport," she said. "It's an incredibly popular sport and we like to keep everyone active."

Ball said the recreation department has around 200 people who participate in organized leagues, with even larger numbers playing recreationally.

The game's growing popularity comes largely from the participation of older residents, and part of its allure is how easy and inexpensive it can be.

Paddles can be found for as low as $15, and the only other items required are the plastic game balls and a net.

Ball said many residents have their own nets, and take them to tennis courts to play.

Demand is so high, she said the parks and recreation department plans to discuss the issue with the city's parks and recreation advisory board to determine if more courts are needed or if they should add additional lines to existing tennis courts for those who play there.

"There's a demand for the sport," she said.

"So we'll be asking for their input on how to approach it, whether it's budget for independent courts or to look at striping some (existing tennis) courts."

And while Ball said the department was already happy with plans for Hoff Woods Park, the addition of pickleball courts makes for an even more well-rounded plan.

"Making accommodations for any kind of activity that keeps our residents active and gets them out into our parks always makes us happy," she said.

Construction on the expansion is expected to finish before the end of 2017, with fields opening sometime next year.

For more information, visit westerville.org.

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