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The Celebration Pickleball Club Story

Our story begins at the end of 2013 with one man at the helm, Harry Sauter, trying to bring his love of pickleball to the town of Celebration.

Fast forward to early 2016, gaining some more pickleball fans to help with his quest, approval was given to make one of the tennis courts a dual usage court. Finally a step in the right direction! Unfortunately it didn't last as the courts were resurfaced and tennis players wanted their court time so management decided not to allow any chalking / taping.

In March 2016, the Celebration Pickleball Club was officially founded by Harry Sauter, David Eastman and Bryan Campbell.

Now on to the North Village Pavilion with a concrete floor, tape for the lines and our first net donated by Bryan and Laurie Campbell. We had to deal with pillars to the sides of the court and a roof, making lobbing difficult, it was a challenge to play in this location. However, we were just happy to be playing pickleball and knew that if we could play well here it would just make us better players on a normal pickleball court!

With a mix of ages and abilities, the experienced pickleball players taught the newbies and a pickleball passion in Celebration started to grow. Knowing the pavilion wasn't going to be a permanent solution to our pickleball addiction we started looking for a different place to play...

In January 2017 our next attempt was to try inside at the Celebration Town Hall Activities room.

This might be a perfect spot for the Florida summers!

The floor provided the perfect bounce for the ball. Unfortunately, a lack of space around the court lines and still no ability to lob the ball, the group quickly decided this was not the place for us.

Undeterred, we continued on our quest to find a new home!

Thankfully our new home wasn't too far away...

Thanks to David's persistence he was able to secure us a place to play at the Georgetown Tennis Court.

Here we were able to have 2 pickleball courts with portable nets, we finally have a great place to play pickleball with fewer limitations.

We started with chalking the lines which became tedious as new chalk was required after every rain.

We were then approved to tape the courts. How many pickleball players does it take to tape one pickleball court, at least 5 we found! ;-)

The tape doesn't last forever but the tape residue left behind seems to last a while so sometimes we have a bit of both.

In April 2017 we started some advertising so the whole of Celebration could learn how fun the sport of pickleball is. We built a website and Facebook page, thanks to Lucy Clark. We held our first Beginner's Pickleball Clinic.

In January 2018 we added a lockable storage bench to the court to hold our pickleball nets and balls so our club members could have access to them anytime.

6 of our players played in a tournament in Winter Garden in March 2018.

Congrats to Jeremy and Scott for winning GOLD in the Mens Doubles 3.5! They won all of their 8 games!

Also congrats to Dave and Lucy for winning the SILVER in the 19+ Mixed Doubles 3.5!

In March 2018 we designed a club logo and ordered club t-shirts, thanks to Lucy Clark and The Dink Shop. Please use the Contact Page to email us if you would like information on how to order a shirt.

In April 2018 we decided we were ready for 3 courts and were approved to paint. Here came the blue paint giving us 2 courts on 1 side of the tennis court. A really tight fit, but we needed the space!

Continuing with our advertising efforts in Celebration, we had our first ever article published in the Celebrations News in May 2018 about the Winter Garden tournament.

Following on from advertising we reached a major milestone in growing our pickleball club with 21 players attending our Saturday May 26th 2018 meeting! :-)

In August 2018 our group had expanded so much that we were ready to use all our space on the tennis court and make 4 courts! Out came the blue paint again and 2 courts created on the other side!

The beginning of 2019 brought us another boom in numbers. We had multiple sessions of 30 players in January and in February one meeting saw a record number of 37 players!

We're really showing Celebration that there is a need for permanent courts! With the update of the Celebration Master Plan starting this year we hope to become a top priority.

Also in early 2019, 14 of our club members participated in the Central Florida Pickleball Winter League. We competed against 5 other teams from the Greater Orlando area, 1 home and 1 away game against each team, playing 2 mixed, 1 men's and 1 women's doubles match at each meet. Our team enjoyed the experience travelling to other places and playing with other players. We ended up taking a respectable 4th place in the league based on games won (with a 3 way tie for 2nd in individual match wins).

September 2019 came with a resurfaced tennis court and professionally painted pickleball lines! Thanks Georgetown!

Thanks to Ron Rondon, he organized our first social round robin!

Well organized fun with great food, great people, great pickleball and great prizes!

He arranged mixed doubles for advanced and recreational players, followed by women's and men's doubles. Partner's randomly put together by blind pick.

Such a great event!

2019 was a big tournament year with 15 GOLD, 13 SILVER and 3 BRONZE medals, our club members really brought home the hardware!

We also had 3 members of our club play singles in tournaments for the first time this year, David Eastman, Scott Kirschner and Jami Viscomi, great job guys!

Here's a gallery celebrating our winners.

The end of February 2020, before Covid-19 was on anyone's radar there was one last major tournament! 8 of our club members went to St Augustine, brought home some bling (4 Golds, 2 Silvers, 1 Bronze) and had a great time!

Welcome March 2020 and the Covid-19 shutdown.

Lucy Clark started an At Home Challenge for our club members. It involved 7 days of a challenge being released each day. Lucy recorded a video of herself doing a pickleball skill and our members had to match it. Every member who was able to complete all 7 challenges received a prize. This was well received so a bonus addition of 4 more challenges were released with an additional prize.

Our courts were closed for 2 months. When we returned, Lucy and Dave made sure we had safety guidelines in place. This was a challenge with differing views on the pandemic, but they managed to steer the group through. We gradually increased capacity limits, had mandatory sign up and extra sessions were added to allow more people to play each week. Restrictions were gradually adjusted as we progressed through 2020 and into 2021.

By the end of 2020 we had 60 Celebration Residents on our roster with only primarily word of mouth, minimal advertising. :-)

For managing our pickleball club, we have come a long way from a WhatsApp group! In March 2018 we found the Heja App, this has been great for showing our schedule, allowing players to sign up and see who else is going to each session. It's also good for club communication and private messaging between our members. For managing through Covid it was missing one major component of having the ability to set capacities for each session. Because of this we moved on to SignUpGenius, a simple but effective website for just the ability to sign up. Also, during 2021 we had a 30 day test of The Pickleball Den in hopes it would bring together the great things about Heja along with the capacities of SignUpGenius, but some limitations made us realize it wasn't the app for us. Once our numbers started to lower towards the Summer of 2021 and Covid restrictions were easing up we transitioned back to our trusty Heja app.

The side of our managing which players don't see, thanks to Dave's knowledge, are MailChimp and Airtable. Mailchimp allows us to send out professional emails and capture data with forms and surveys. With AirTable we're able to keep track of the dues we're paid and all details and stats of the players on our roster.

In 2021 our pursuit for permanent courts in Celebration was really heating up. We decided we needed to start advertising to get more Celebration residents involved. To start doing this we needed an environment where new players could learn how to play pickleball without feeling intimidated by the experienced players. We started holding our Beginner's Clinic in October 2021. Harry Sauter stepped up as our instructor, with many of our experienced players assisting. We provided paddles and balls. We advertised in the Friday Flash and Celebration Magazine, and it was a huge hit. By the time we closed down for the summer we had 112 Celebration Residents take part.

With so many more players we also expanded our schedule. We now have scheduled play every morning, with some sessions catering to just beginners and some to just advanced. We also added a social session called 'Dinks and Drinks' where players can play pickleball and then go downtown for drinks and food.

June 2021 CROA put out a request for volunteers to be on a 'Pickleball Task Force'. The 'PTF' or later 'Subject Matter Experts (SME) group' consists of Mike Jackson, Steve Northridge, Scott Kirschner, David Eastman & Lucy Clark. A lot of volunteer hours have been put in by these 5 in our pursuit for permanent pickleball courts in Celebration.

Thanks to Ron Rondon, in December 2021 we had another successful social tournament!

We had Recreational and Competitive divisions for mixed doubles and men's / women's doubles. All pairings were a blind pick.

We had medals and prizes for the winners. Plus, plenty of food and drink to enjoy.

Lots of fun had by all! :-)

Towards the end of 2020 and 2021 our club was starting to get back into the tournament scene. We ended those 2 years with 11 GOLD, 9 SILVER and 8 BRONZE medals.

Here's a gallery celebrating our winners.

By the end of 2021 we had 119 Celebration Residents on our roster! :-)

Enter into 2022 and our numbers were really booming with our new players from the clinics and our snowbirds returning! With our limited space and only 4 courts we had to come up with some rules to keep things organized when we have a line of people waiting to play. Thanks to Lucy Clark we have our new paddle rack which holds 16 paddles. She also made signs with rules to help keep the line moving, restricting how many games you can stay on for if you win, what number a game goes to and when it's time to move to 4 on 4 off. Some sessions we have 1 line feeding into all 4 courts and some sessions we have 2 lines, each one feeding into 2 courts.

The Florida Cup at Pictona in March 2022 brought a new type of tournament. A team tournament representing your town or club. 7 of our club members proudly represented Celebration in the 4.0 bracket. We played 4 other teams with 1 women's doubles, 1 men's doubles and 1 mixed doubles match (best of 3 games to 11) against each team. This gave our players the opportunity to play with different partners over a normal tournament where you stay with the same partner. We came a close 4th in our group and had a great time!

We hope to be able to participate in more team tournaments and have more different levels compete to represent our town of Celebration.

One of the detriments of having an undersized playing area for our courts is sometimes some accidents happen... We've had some players hurt themselves on the fence but this time it was the tennis net which came to harm when one of our players ran into it! Nothing is going to keep us pickleball players from playing so we continued to play, while being careful of stray balls, until the tennis net was replaced.

Our Beginner's Pickleball Clinics restarted in November 2022. We moved them from a weekday morning to a weekend to help more working people attend.

We had to end 2022 with another party! Players came with their Christmas spirit and enjoyed some great pickleball games along with some food and drink. A great time to get all our club members together of all levels and ages! :-)

A lot of work has been done by the PTF / SME group throughout 2022 in pursuit of our permanent courts. This includes interviewing potential contractors, doing a lot of research, drawing out possible layouts and many Zoom meetings (including when our members were in different parts of the world!).

KPM Franklin was brought on to develop drawings and obtain permits for the whole 'Lot D Project' which consists of 8 pickleball courts, a new parking lot and a field for ad-hoc play and overflow parking. CROA then approved Calic Group to act as our Owners Rep and RFP Manager.

December 2022 finally saw our RFP go out for bid!

Our 2022 tournament season saw some players out with injuries and a lot of us moving up a level so not quite as big a showing. We ended the year with 3 GOLD, 5 SILVER and 4 BRONZE medals.

Here's a gallery celebrating our winners.

By the end of 2022 we had 235 Celebration Residents on our roster! :-)

In May 2023 we closed down our 2nd season of beginner's clinics. A total of 237 Celebration Residents have signed up. We have all ages and demographics.

By the end of 2023, we had 343 Celebration Residents on the roster.

By the end of May 2024, we had 375 Celebration Residents on the roster.

The vision is to have permanent courts in the town of ​Celebration, Florida for our residents and guests.

Our story continues....

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