Written by Abbey Williams // Photo by Macy Cox
The new pickleball courts in Berryhill Park are open and have become a new and exciting part of the Searcy community.
Director of Searcy Parks and Recreation Mike Parsons said this is just the beginning of what is in store for Berryhill Park.
“This is just phase one of what Berryhill will become,” Parsons said. “It will be a big destination part of Searcy. We will have food truck outlets, family yard games, splash pads, hammock areas, sitting areas and a destination playground.”
Parsons said pickleball is a sport growing in popularity.
“I think the possibilities are endless,” Parsons said. “As long as we can maintain [the courts] and take good care of them, this sport is doing nothing but growing. The future and successes continue to rise, enough where down the road, we have to look at building more pickleball courts. We were crowded before and especially now with Harding students.”
Chris O’Shields, a member of the committee that worked on developing the courts, said the courts in Berryhill Park are the best Arkansas has to offer. He said the pickleball community is a welcoming group, and that people from outside of Searcy come to play pickleball on the new courts.
“The courts are successful,” O’Shields said. “I think in due time, there will be more tournaments held. More out-of-town people are coming to Berryhill to play, which will provide more money for restaurants and hotels, and we already have people coming from Cabot, Heber and Little Rock.”
Jana Miller, a member of the Parks and Recreation board, said the courts have brought a new energy to the park.
“It has breathed new life into Berryhill,” Miller said. “I love driving by and seeing the parking lot full. I love that it is such a beautiful complex we are all so proud of. We want people to come check it out. It’s something our community is proud of, and it’s the very first spark of what’s to come, and it’s exciting.”
Miller said playing pickleball is a good way to get outside, exercise and be social at the same time.
“I think it’s fantastic for all generations to be able to come together and play a game,” Miller said. “My daughter plays, as well as someone I know who is 85. I enjoy playing with older and younger people. It’s just a fun game no matter your age or gender, so older people can still get exercise in a great environment. I’m an advocate for adult fitness, and it can be hard to find a place like this and enjoy your workout and be social.”
Junior Leah Smith said her experience with the courts has been positive.
“My experience at the courts has been really great.” Smith said. “It’s been really fun. The courts are nice and organized and the area around it is really well lit and clean. It’s been a safe and friendly environment every time I’ve been, I am a big fan of the hours the courts are open. It’s nice to be able to play later longer.”
Smith said she hopes to meet more new people on the courts.
“The courts definitely have the potential for meeting new people in the community,” Smith said. “I enjoy playing with different people and different skill sets, so that’s something I hope I can do more. I think it’s just a matter of asking people to join your group at this point with the way the courts are set up.”