D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser grabbed a pickleball racket and learned the basics of the game Thursday at the Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Northeast.
It was part of her effort to draw more attention to the game, which has skyrocketed in popularity locally and around the country.
“This year, among a lot of priorities for the District, pickleball was a new one,” Bowser said.
Her budget proposal, which is being considered by the D.C. Council, sets aside $750,000 for four new pickleball courts.
They would be built on existing, underutilized tennis courts.
“What I’ve heard about pickleball is it’s the fastest growing sport in America for people of all ages,” Bowser said.
The District currently has 10 courts that are specifically for pickleball.
Dozens of tennis courts across the city are used in part for pickleball, but only during certain times.
“We want to grow pickleball,” said Delano Hunter, director of the District’s parks and recreation department. “We want to repurpose underutilized hard-surface assets, where we can breathe new life by growing the game.”
In addition to parks and recreation, Bowser’s budget plan focuses on revitalizing downtown, adding hundreds more traffic cameras throughout the District and cutting the number of DC Circulator bus routes in half.
Bowser recently told council members the city’s finances are strong, but they must face reality — an estimated drop in revenue of more than $390 million due to an economic slump, expiring federal COVID funds and a lasting shift to telework for downtown workers.
The mayor’s plan to counteract the loss of dollars generated by the emergence of telework is to deliver on a proposal to pull 15,000 new residents into downtown, allocating $41 million to support housing.
Negotiations are ongoing between the council and Bowser’s administration, with a scheduled final council vote on the budget on May 30.