The La Crosse Area Pickleball Club got its start when snowbirds who picked up the game during winters elsewhere began to play the game. They looked for places to play Pickleball when they returned to this area. A few people led the way in finding places to play, including Don McCrery, Candice Bucheger, Jo Ann Wickizer (on right in picture), Mike and Teresa Mattie and Whitey and Linda Hoehn.
Candice was instrumental in getting Onalaska Parks and Rec to host an "Introduction to Pickleball" in the summer of 2013 and it began to take off from there. Onalaska Parks and Rec then painted Pickleball lines on the Parkridge tennis courts and gave us a crank to lower the nets for Pickleball play. In the summer of 2016, they opened up the first dedicated outdoor Pickleball courts at Oak Park in a 50-mile radius! We are all thankful for the Onalaska Parks and Recreation's supportive response to Pickleball from the very beginning.
We are also thankful for the YMCA in Onalaska being open to Pickleball play. When they had one gym, the players would come and tape down the lines and then set up the nets. When done playing, the nets had to come down and all the tape lifted up from the floor. Then the Y announced they would be adding another gym. Mike and Teresa then spoke with YMCA leadership and urged them to add Pickleball lines in that gym - which they did! By February 2018, there was a total of 7 times when 20+ players came to play at the Y including two evening times for day workers.
During all of this Pickleball growth, there was a need for some communication and organization, and Jo Ann took on a leadership role to do this for which we all are thankful. Not only did the organization help, but several social events were communicated via Jo Ann that were hosted by various members. That "community" feeling is a big part of this sport. Because it is mostly designed as "drop in" play, you get to meet lots of people, have time to chat with them, and a whole new set of friends results.
Jan Lucas came to the area in late 2017. She and her husband, Bob, were avid players in Ohio and had worked to promote the sport in that area. Upon arriving, Jan was named the USAPA Ambassador for the area. An Ambassador's goal is to promote the sport of Pickleball in a variety of ways which she did in La Crosse, Onalaska and as far as Winona. Since that start in 2013, by the beginning of 2019 we had over 250 players on our club list - with more being added each month! In the summer of 2019 we reached over 300 players! Jan and her husband moved in January of 2020 following a job opportunity. The leadership team has taken over and continues the work of promoting and organizing pickleball in the area.
LA CROSSE PICKLEBALL CLUB
With the growth of pickleball in our area, Jan invited people in 2018 to become part of the leadership team to help guide the development and promotion of pickleball. We do not require dues, instead we choose to raise funds as needed for the pickleball needs in our area such as wind screens, paddles, medical supplies for the courts, and working toward getting an AED unit. We have an official club bank account for donations to be held and from which items are paid for.
The leadership team ( Jan 2020): Vacant, President; Jo Ann Wickizer, VP; Karen Bonifas, Treasurer; Social Committee: Judy Brennan, Dobby Engelbert, and Diane Walker. Additional members at large: Kent Bruden, Candice Bucheger, Steve Clark, Gary Ekern, Mike Gritzmacher, John (Whitey) Hoehn, Richard Huber, and Bridget Olson.
Through their efforts, the team led a charge for 6 months of contacting city hall and the mayor for dedicated pickleball courts in La Crosse. The target was to convert Myrick Park into 6 pickleball courts and to add 12 dedicated courts at Veteran's Freedom Park. They attended meetings and brought in 932 signatures toward this ends!
In the September 10, 2018 public meeting, almost the entire CIP (Capital Improvements Projects) budget was allocated toward infrastructure in La Crosse - streets and lighting. Much needed even though some streets, like La Crosse, are the state's responsibility. As a result, Myrick Park with 6 dedicated pickleball courts and Veteran's Freedom Park with 12 dedicated pickleball courts were pushed to the 2020 budget.
However, our voices were heard and they found a place for Pickleball! Per the Mayor's instruction, the Parks and Rec Department found a TIF district and allocated money toward a tennis and pickleball facility, indoor and outdoor, at Green Island Park. $400,000 was voted to have pickleball courts on November 11, 2018!
UPDATE ON GREEN ISLAND PARK COURTS - which is now Houska Park Pickleball Complex
The city of La Crosse has given the club 8 dedicated pickleball courts at Houska Park (right next to the Mississippi River). The estimated completion time in mid to late summer 2021
To keep updated on the latest happenings, sign up for a weekly email by contacting the La Crosse Area Pickleball club at email@example.com.