The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

IC Downtown District builds pickleball court on Ped Mall for summer

Residents can play pickleball, shuffleboard, and hopscotch on the court.
People play hopscotch on a pickleball court in downtown Iowa City on Thursday, April 18, 2024.

The Iowa City Downtown District built a multisport pickleball court late last week for residents to use this summer into early fall.

The court also has hopscotch and shuffleboard and can be used for other sports if the pickleball net is removed.

Downtown District Executive Editor Betsy Potter said it is open and free for public use, but they are not providing game equipment for the time being. Potter said the district plans on supplying shuffleboard equipment at the beginning of May.

Potter said this will be a good year to see how the court is used. The district has always managed and activated the Black Hawk Mini Park space, located at 104 S. Dubuque St., but Potter said this is the first installation that will be available for the whole summer.

“We were able to put the court in the area we wanted, we added a shuffleboard court because we thought that would be another fun addition to the space,” Potter said. “Then we added a 20-step hopscotch to create another dimension of fun. You don’t have to have any equipment with you to interact with that portion of this activation.”

The district worked with a company called VersaCourt that supplied them with the customizable ability they were looking for through manufacturing design tiles, Potter said. These smaller tiles are easy to take apart and put back together if need be, and tiles can also be added to create improved court spaces.

“That’s where we found VersaCourt, which is what the court surface is, and the great part of these put-together-piece tiles is that you can customize it for your space,” Potter said. “That surface was customized for the space.”

Katie Carpenter, the downtown district’s director of special events, helped set up the court last Thursday. She described the task as a “huge puzzle with thousands of pieces” and said the process of putting it all together took her and her team eight hours.

“It was a team bonding activity, we had to put our brains together to figure it out. It was a little difficult at times, once we got in the rhythm of it it was fine,” Carpenter said. “Betsy had already planned out the exact dimensions and which spot she wanted it to go in because it had to go in a specific spot so that it lined up with the drain and didn’t cover anything.”

Carpenter said she is planning how the district will use the court in the Block Party this summer. The Block Party is an annual event that will take over 14 blocks in Downtown Iowa City and has included fan-favorite events such as a silent disco, a drag show, and a fashion show. With the pickleball court already being downtown, Carpenter said it will be utilized in some shape or form.

Carpenter said they are considering holding tournaments, which would incorporate a signup sheet, or general free-play activities on the court. She said a signup format for tournaments the downtown district has hosted previously, such as sand volleyball and tug-of-war, has been successful in the past.

Potter said through her research before the project, she discovered how much the installation of the surface and the surface of a court itself can affect the game. She said the bounce of the ball can be inconsistent on certain surfaces, which makes it hard to achieve a fun game.

Jim Walker, VersaCourt’s director of strategic accounts for the recreational group, was the sales representative for this project and worked directly with Potter in planning the surface tiles of the court.

Walker said the 20-step multi-colored hopscotch is something unique that he had never done.

“With all of our courts being custom, we take what is given by the customer, in this case Betsy, and we were able to fit what they were looking for into that space,” Walker said. “We utilized their space to have all three sports on there to really maximize what they can do out there.”

Although the district has received questions regarding court reservation, it will continue to be a first come first serve court for the time being. Carpenter said the court will make a reappearance for the next few years at least.

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