INDOOR PLAY – SF Rec Centers

Pickleball in San Francisco has a long history of indoor play.  It grew from early play on taped floors in the Palega Rec Center in the Portola.  Dogged advocacy by Pickleball Community members nurtured an expansion into six gyms located in neighborhoods throughout the City.   Sponsorship from Rec & Park Mangers and local Rec Center Site Coordinators, plus portable nets, balls and paddles donated by the Community were required to get on Rec Center calendars.

Today, indoor play is robust and a very popular alternative to get in play on those inclement weather days.   Sessions are offered mostly during the day, but their are a couple of evening sessions and one Saturday morning offering.  We continue to try and secure more chances to play indoors and we urge folks to talk to your local Rec Center Director to see whether we can get more locations on board.   Moscone (in the Marina) offered a trial this past Spring based on requests from local players.

Current locations support 3 or 4 courts inside gymnasiums.  Volunteers set up portable nets and everything about play is the same as as outdoors except for:

  • the ball – an indoor ball has fewer holes and is softer than an outdoor pickleball.  This makes it a bit slower and easier to launch a wicked spin return.
  • kitchen line – most of the centers use lines that were painted for badminton, so the kitchen line marking is at 6 1/2 feet from the centerline, rather than 7 feet.  Better for people with a shorter reach, but who calls kitchen foot faults anyway?
  • court line clutter – unfortunately, since these gyms support multiple sports (basketball, volleyball, four square), the court boundaries can be hard to distinguish.  This issue goes away the more you play and the less you decide to fudge line calls.
  • external glare – sunlight streaming in from windows & entrance doors can produce a glare/floor reflection that interfere with your vision.  This varies with the season and time of day, so make sure to direct your opponents to the “bright side” of the court when you get on.  Can make a bigger difference to the game outcome than your choice of partner.  Or just play at night.

Actually these are all minor distractions, and can’t measure up to the excitement of indoor play.   No wind, no fog, no damaging UV rays, just community fun and competition.   All play is drop-in and follow the usual paddle stacking next to nets for play rotation.

Give it a try if you’ve never been – you’ll meet new players and realize that you can still play for free whenever Karl the Fog comes creeping around your outdoor venue.

Scenes from Glen Park, Upper Noe Valley, and Eureka Valley Rec Centers.