Pickleball, the fast-growing, easy-to-play, all-ages racket sport has a brand new home in NYC: CityPickle has taken over Wollman Rink in Central Park for the spring, summer, and early fall.
Bringing with it 14 pickleball courts, CityPickle is the largest pickleball installation in NYC and offers 196 bookable hours daily between now and when it closes up shop in October so the famed ice skating rink can have its valuable real estate back.
To test out the kid-friendliness of CityPickle, we rounded up a pack of 9- and 10-year-old pickleball novices and took a CityPickle lesson. From learning about the kitchen to dinks, drives, and serves, read on for our experience and to learn how you can get in the pickleball game yourself at CityPickle this season.
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CityPickle's location in Central Park makes for a beautiful backdrop.
What is Pickleball?
If you're new to the sport, we've got an entire post to prime you for pickleball play, though the best teacher, really, is experience. If you've spent much time in city parks lately, you've likely seen these games popping up—and hopefully avoided the pickleball wars the sport's popularity has sprouted!
The CityPickle Courts
The entirety of Wollman Rink's surface has been transformed into a series of 14 pickleball courts. The surface is similar to a hard court in tennis—and similarly colored—though the setting is completely unique to NYC with Central Park's greenery framing the spot and the towering buildings of Midtown in the background. Pickleball courts, however, aren't as big as a tennis court—they're similarly sized to a badminton court.
While CityPickle is new to Central Park, the organization has hosted a series of pop-up pickleball courts across the city and plans to open its first permanent location in Long Island City this spring.
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If you're new to pickleball, sign up for a lesson or clinic to get expert instruction in the sport.
Playing Pickleball at CityPickle
There are a variety of ways to get in the game at CityPickle, depending on your experience and level of play. And, in case you're wondering, no experience is necessary! CityPickle offers both clinics and private lessons to bring new players into the sport.
Our group of complete novices took a 45-minute lesson from one of the CityPickle instructors and left with a few skills and a lot of smiles. Our instructor was endlessly patient with our group of five—and also so encouraging! I loved that one of her main messages was that there's always another point in pickleball. It took more than a few strokes to find success, but she cheered every effort and kept our kids in the game.
Similar public lessons are set to debut in May and can be customized to your group and age level. Lessons cost $40/hour/person.
More experienced players can book an entire court for groups of up to eight to play for an hour. They come at a premium—$80/hour, though if it's shared between all players the cost is easier to swallow.
Other options include Open Play, where single players can drop-in for an hour on the courts with like-skilled players, and group clinics catering to everyone from beginners to advanced players.
We love that two hours of court time daily are reserved across six courts for Community Play, part of Wollman Rink's promise to make the rink's programming accessible to all New Yorkers. For just $5, enjoy one hour of court time with paddle rental included. Instructors are on hand to organize games among like-skilled players during these sessions. Community Play is all-ages friendly and kids are welcome.
While walkups are permitted if court time is available, we recommend booking your court time—whether it's for Community Play, lessons, or Open Play, in advance. Reservations are released on a rolling basis one week in advance.
Food at CityPickle
Wollman Rink's concessionaire Great Performances provides food at the snack bar inside near the locker rooms. Beyond CityPickle, you can indulge in soul food from Melba's on the plaza overlooking the rink on weekends, or visit one of the other food carts peppering the park.
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CityPickle's courts offer 196 hours of playing time each day, including some set aside for affordable Community Play.
Know Before You Go to CityPickle
- CityPickle is open daily through Monday, October 9.
- Wollman Rink is located just north of The Pond in Central Park, at about 63rd Street and Sixth Avenue.
- If you don't have your own pickleball paddle, you can add one onto a reservation for $6; paddles are included in all Community Play bookings, however.
- Dress for active play when you visit! Tennis shoes with non-marking soles are required on the courts.
- There are bathrooms located inside the clubhouse at CityPickle.
Photo by the author