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Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket: Pickleball and the $100 Hamburger

Murmurs from the Losers' Bracket Frank Cerabino 04-03-2023

Pickleball in New York City. 

Hooray! … Hooray?

We here at Murmurs from the Loser’s Bracket are generally supportive about pickleball breaking out wherever it can.

We have played indoor and outdoor pickleball. Including pickleball on a street with passing cars and taped lines. Or even more ramshackle: In a driveway when parts of the kitchen area are soft mulch in a flower garden.

Yes, we’re not picky. Just give us a net, a couple of paddles and a ball and we’ll figure something out.

But we do have our limits. And this may be it.

The people behind CityPickle, the first indoor pickleball club in Manhattan, announced that they’ll be converting the Wollman Rink in New York City’s Central Park to 14 pickleball courts for daily play from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. from April 7 to October 9.

So far, so good. Making pickleball widely available in America’s biggest cities is still very much on the game’s to-do list.

OK, and we realize that 14 courts are not going to be a panacea in a city of 8.4 million people.

The math is daunting: Even if 5 percent of New Yorkers want to play pickleball, that’s 420,000 people looking for a court.

Divide that by the 14 courts, and that’s 30,000 people per Central Park court, which is available 14 hours a day. So, if you divide again, that works out to be 2,142 players-per-hour-per-court.

To paraphrase the Chief Brody character in the movie, Jaws, “You’re gonna need a bigger paddle rack.”

But it seems the people behind the new pickleball courts in Central Park have figured out their own effective way of crowd control.

They’re planning to rent the courts out at an hourly rate of $120 per hour at peak times, and $80 per hour for other times.

There’s the rub, as Shakespeare would say. I’m not sure I can enjoy pickleball at $120 an hour.

It reminds me of a South Florida hotel 25 years ago that began offering a $100 hamburger. My biggest problem with the $100 hamburger was imagining the dollar price for every bite while chewing.

It’s enough to ruin a person’s appetite. Same thing goes with $120-per-hour pickleball.

If you play a doubles game, and everyone pays an equal share, that’s $30 to play pickleball for an hour.

For about the same price, you can walk across the park and get a SoulCycle class at the East 63rd Street studio led by Sara, Cole, JJ, Lo, Conor, Lauren S., or Jarreau.

God forbid. But I’m just throwing that out there for comparison sake.

And let’s face it, unlike SoulCycle classes, pickleball doubles games vary wildly in effort and enjoyment. To a large extent, that’s due to the range of abilities of the other players. You know what you’re getting with a SoulCycle class.

But with pickleball, it’s a crapshoot. You could end up in an open-play situation, participating on either side of some 11-2 pickleball games with a group of randos.

All for more money than you’ve ever paid before to play. 

And at the risk of piling on, I will also mention that according to the artist’s drawings of the courts, they’ll be snugly situated without fencing between courts, the kind of fencing that keeps errant balls from rolling through adjacent courts.

So, amend that analogy to a $100 hamburger that’s a tad raw in the middle.


Read past editions of Murmurs from the Losers’ Bracket, including:

Frank Cerabino is a long-time columnist for the Palm Beach Post in Florida, a pickleball addict like the rest of us, and a newly published author. Check out Frank’s newly released book, I Dink, Therefore I Am: Coming to Grips with My Pickleball Addiction (available on Amazon and a great read (or gift!) for any pickleball player), for pickleball tips and laughs!

I Dink, Therefore I Am | Frank Cerabino


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