Avid tennis players, they quickly fell in love with the sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis.
The Earlys soon began playing pickleball on the tennis court in the backyard of their home in the Macedonia community of Canton. They began promoting the sport, and over the past seven years, the number of players making use of their facility increased so much that they began putting up temporary nets. With 30 regular players, and 50 more who would occasionally play, the temporary courts soon became too much work to maintain.
“We put temporary nets in the back of the tennis courts, so we had four temporary pickleball courts as well,” Tom Early said. “It just got to the point where putting tape down or chalking the lines periodically got to be a pain to do all the time.”
Ann Early said she and her husband decided to resurface the courts, and when they did, they wanted to build pickleball courts instead. Since the size of a pickleball court is roughly one-third of the size of a tennis court, they were able to construct six courts — making their facility the largest semi-private facility in Georgia.
“When we decided to resurface them, we decided to make them what we want — not just what would have good resale value,” Ann Early said. “We figured we were going to live here another 10 years, and we want to enjoy it.”
Tom Early said the conversion required a complete resurfacing of the existing tennis courts. The process began by pressure-washing the surface and filling in any cracks. Fabric was then placed over the cracks to prevent them from reappearing.
Post holes were dug for the new pickleball nets, and a bonding-coating was applied to the old surface before the new material was put on top. Finally, the lines were painted.
“Because the pickleball is a hard ball, we didn’t want a whole lot of sand or grit that they put in,” Tom Early said. “We didn’t want it to be a real thick texture, so we cut back on that. They did a perfect job of getting that so the balance is real true and the ball doesn’t skip or skid when it hits the lines.”
The work, done by Signature Tennis Courts, took just eight days. Bill Ostenhold, who has overseen a few pickleball court projects in the past, has notice a rise in their popularity.
“We’ve built probably half a dozen,” he said. “But we have done some where we painted a blended line on a tennis court to make it a dual-purpose court. We are getting more inquiries, though. It’s really starting to hit this area of the country and gain popularity.”
Ostenhold said the construction is identical to building a tennis court, except the dimensions are smaller.
“In this case, the conversion process meant that we have to install 12 new net posts to accommodate the six pickleball courts,” Ostenhold said.
Tom Early designed the courts and left the old tennis net up to serve as a divider between pickleball courts, and to prevent balls from going from one court into another.
“It was really a pretty cool idea,” Ostenhold said. “It meant we didn’t even have to take the old foundations out.”
While the courts have been in use for about two weeks, the Earlys will host a grand opening for the new facility Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The event will feature a presentation of colors by the Cherokee High School Junior ROTC, and a voice major at Reinhardt University will perform the national anthem prior to the ribbon-cutting.
Ann Early said pickleball players will be coming from several different states to celebrate the grand opening.
“We are going to have some fun with it,” she said. “We have players coming from Alabama and Tennessee and Florida and Georgia. We have opened the area up to anyone, who wants to learn how to play pickleball. Those who already know how to play can come and join us. We just really want to make it where someone can have a great time playing pickleball.”
After the ceremony, the courts will be open for a round-robin tournament.
“A lot of people are just coming who are friends, neighbors, part of the Macedonia community,” Early said. “People that have never played, but now they can come and learn to play on one of the courts.”
Because the facility is located in the Earlys’ backyard, they restrict the use of the courts. For the summer they are open Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 9 a.m., Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. and by arrangement on Sunday.
More information about pickleball and the Earlys’ courts is available at south.usapa.org.