WILLMAR — Pickleball is coming to Sperry Park. The Willmar City Council on Monday night approved turning the two tennis courts at the park into six new pickleball courts, providing more opportunities for enthusiasts of the popular sport.

"The need for pickleball is there," said Rob Baumgarn, Willmar Parks and Recreation director, at Monday night's City Council meeting.

The project will cost approximately $72,458 plus the cost for the nets and poles.

The city has been planning for some time to rehabilitate Sperry Park's tennis courts, which are in great need of repair. However, with the new courts at Miller Park and upgrades to the Willmar Public School courts, a decision was made to go another direction.

The new plan was presented at the July 10 meeting of the council's Public Works/Public Safety Committee. Public Works Director Sean Christensen said the city had $150,000 in the budget for tennis upgrades for Sperry and Hilltop parks. Last year, the council removed $42,000 from the budget to instead pay for new dugouts at Baker Field. The remaining funds were no longer enough to cover both parks, so the decision was made to focus on Sperry Park.

"We re-scoped this project," Christensen said at the July 10 meeting. "We dropped the resurface of Hilltop in lieu of the latest push to get some outdoor pickleball courts at Sperryville Park."

To keep the project on budget, the city will act as the general contractor for the project and Park and Rec staff gathered quotes for three subcontractors. The council approved the hiring of Riley Bros. to resurface the courts for $40,345; Andi's FenceAll for fencing for $17,113; and Surface Pro to paint the court surface for $15,000. There will be money remaining in the project to pay for the nets and poles.

"I am very excited we are getting this done," Councilor Audrey Nelsen said during the July 10 discussion.

Christensen said he was surprised when so many pickleball courts were able to fit in the old tennis courts. A pickleball court has different dimensions than a tennis court.

"We can fit six in the same footprint, which is pretty impressive," Christensen said.

Pickleball, which started in the 1960s and now boasts millions of players and thousands of courts across the country, is a racket sport with characteristics of tennis, badminton and ping pong. The Sperry Park courts will be some of the first outdoor pickleball courts in Willmar.