Pickleball has become so popular on Long Island that some people are setting up courts in their own backyards. Newsday's Rachel Weiss reports. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin, Johnny Milano, Morgan Campbell

Fans of pickleball either get up early to get their names on the schedule at their town courts or pay for a gym membership that includes the sport. But others are continuing the trend begun during the COVID shutdown of creating a home-based entertainment center.

When it comes to pickleball and other sports, some Long Islanders have built their own courts in their driveways or on existing tennis courts with some rolls of tape for a couple of hundred dollars. Others have spent upward of $55,000 to hire a professional to install a customized version in their backyards.

What are the trends on Long Island?

Pickleball has been around since 1965, but Crystal Paskiewicz, 50, owner of Matchpoint of Long Island in Quogue, said she's had an uptick in requests for court installations in the past two years and has installed about 30.

"It's good for older people because it's less running and a lot easier on the body, but the teenagers and young adults love it as well," she said.

Francis Leogrande, 45, project manager for Flex Court New York in Farmingdale, said that pickleball has been the driving force behind most court renovations he's doing as well.

"Probably 50% to 60% of the calls we get are for a multisport court, but since last year pickleball always seems to be involved in that," he said. "Since the pandemic, people have invested into their backyards, and it's not just sports; it's full total backyards like pools, patios and outdoor fireplaces."

Ralph Serzo Jr., chief sports officer of My Backyard Sports Long Island, based in Hicksville, which installs a variety of sports courts, said more families are building a backyard sports experience, which could be anything from a hoop in the driveway to a full basketball court or a hybrid basketball and pickleball court. "If you're putting in a pickleball court, why not put in a basketball hoop or lines for hopscotch or shuffleboard?"

Entertaining home investments

Donna Romano and her son A.J. enjoy the basketball court in the backyard of their Dix Hills home. Credit: Steve Pfost

Professionally installed 30-by-50 multisport court for basketball, volleyball, pitching options and pickleball

Total cost in 2014: $32,800

Beyond exercise and entertainment, homeowners see it as an investment, according to Jen Torre, an agent with Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Setauket.

"Homeowners began spending more time at home during COVID and installed courts to stay active," she said. "Many opted out of the real estate market and have improved their current homes with recreational features instead of selling."

Torre said it's also good for resale value. At least that's what Donna and Anthony Romano of Dix Hills, both 58, are expecting. In 2014, they invested $32,800 in a 30-by-50 professionally installed multisport court for their then-teenage children, now 22 and 24. It became the neighborhood gathering spot for kids and adults — even coaches for kids' lessons — which is one of the goals the couple had in mind.

A basketball family, they got a sports package with basketball, volleyball, pitching options and pickleball, but never got around to putting up the net. Donna, a physician assistant, now sees it as a great investment as she and Anthony, a musician, consider downsizing from their Colonial, especially with the increased interest in pickleball.

"There's nowhere for kids to really go. The town parks are busy and if you want to play anything regularly, you have to be in a league," said Donna. "So we decided to put in a court at home … It's used all the time, even now. My son comes out at night and shoots hoops. It was definitely a worthwhile investment that I hope appeals to new owners when we put the house on the market."

Professional installation

Dean Spitaleri of East Patchogue had a full basketball court built on his 1-acre property so his daughter, Jada, can practice. Credit: John Paraskevas

Full basketball court with custom sports logo

Total cost: $55,000

Homeowners who want permanent sports courts are hiring professional installers for pickleball, basketball, lacrosse, volleyball, shuffleboard and multisport combinations. Serzo said there are various surfaces, like hard courts — asphalt and concrete — and other turfs like modular sports tiles for basketball, modular concrete replacement tiles for pickleball and artificial turf for sports like lacrosse.

Paskiewicz said the average cost for a professionally installed pickleball court is $35,000, and it increases with the addition of other sports. "Other costs can include landscaping, fencing and bluestone around the courts, especially if your yard needs any excavation to accommodate a court," she added.

The length of time the project will take depends in part on how long the permitting process is in an individual's town. For example, permit processes can take three to four weeks in the Town of Hempstead, and four to six weeks in the Town of Babylon. Paskiewicz said that once the construction begins, it can be up to two months to complete.

"The RCA base of the pickleball court has to settle for four weeks before you lay asphalt on it to prevent cracking," Paskiewicz explained. "Then you lay the asphalt, which has to sit for two weeks so that the oil from the asphalt can sink down. Otherwise, it will be like painting the lines on oil."

Crystal Paskiewicz, owner of Matchpoint of Long Island, said a professionally installed pickleball court can cost an average of


After permits are acquired, she said it can take

up to 2 months to complete

Leogrande said that the cost can be impacted by surface choices. "Concrete is about $10 a square foot, about $24,000" for a basketball court, he said. Synthetic surfaces can cost anywhere from $7,000 for a 25-by-25 court and up to $20,000 for a 20-by-44 court, he estimated, depending on the colors and sports lines. Regardless, the lawn area will have to be dug up and surfaced with subbase materials to prepare it.

Dean Spitaleri, 50, an entrepreneur who lives in East Patchogue, had a full basketball court built on his 1-acre property earlier this year, tucked into the backyard near the pool, so his 14-year-old daughter, Jada, who is on a basketball team, can practice.

"My daughter played basketball and I was a basketball maniac, so I wanted to give her something that she could play on, not driveway basketball, but a real court," he said. "When I was a kid, I played on dirt in my yard, so I always dreamed of having something like this."

Spitaleri said the project cost $55,000, including a custom sports logo. "You've got to love sports to want something like that. I still am obsessed with sports and am in a 35-and-over basketball league, so I might invite them over to play. It's only for people that are really passionate about basketball, and that dreamed of something like this and having that in their yard; that's how I look at it."

What to know about maintaining a professional sports court

For professionally installed courts, Serzo said maintenance includes:

  1. Checking for cracks, peeling and any other damage. "Address small issues before they turn into bigger, more costly problems," he said.
  2. Hard courts should be pressure cleaned every one to two years to remove mold and debris.
  3. Hard courts should be resurfaced every four to five years to repair cracks and apply any faded paint.
  4. Ensure that the court has adequate drainage to prevent water damage and preserve its longevity.
  5. Ask your landscaper to stay away from the edges of the court. Serzo said adding a  border like bluestone for around $15 to $75 per yard can help with that.

Homemade courts

Gabrielle Schavran and her wife, Wanda Castaner, installed a DIY pickleball court on their Northport property. Credit: Johnny Milano

Tape for pickleball court lines on the driveway

Total cost: $30

For those who want a less expensive option, all it takes is a perfectly flat space. The USA Pickleball Association has a guide on its website for how to do it yourself, including measurements and suggested materials, depending on if you want temporary or permanent pickleball lines. For temporary courts, the association suggests about 200 feet of green Frog tape. Double that for permanent lines so you can create stencils to paint in between. The association suggests using white paint for tennis courts because it's durable.

That's not to say the job is a simple one.

With two torn ACLs, or anterior cruciate ligaments, Gabrielle Schavran of Northport started playing pickleball a couple of years ago rather than tennis because there's less movement required. Soon, she and her friends were hooked. Although unable to play due to an injury, her wife Wanda Castaner, a physical education teacher, was excited to help Schavran design a court in their asphalt driveway, which they had widened to accommodate about five to six cars the year before. Castaner looked up the dimensions and then Schavran marked out the 30x50 feet with their friends.

"We measured all the angles and chalk marked them. We used T-squares and laid it out on an angle to be able to give us the maximum amount of room in our driveway," explained Schavran, a retiring high school science teacher. "It was just like a giant drafting project. And then we marked all the lines with four rolls of all-weather tape."

It took them a full day of measuring and taping one weekend last spring. The final cost was about $30 for the tape. They also bought a portable net to go across the middle when they play. The court is a draw for their four adult children, friends and neighbors who often stop by to play in good weather.

"It's a lot of fun because whenever we have visitors over, we volley. We're not serious players. It's just to have fun and it's good exercise," Schavran said. "And the worst that could happen is we may have to replace the tape."

Melissa and Tom Hendrickson of Stony Brook lined an asphalt tennis court with tape to create a pickleball court. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Portable net and pickleball paddles

Total cost: $200

Melissa and Tom Hendrickson of Stony Brook, both 55, had an asphalt tennis court on their property. Last summer, they had regular Thursday night pickleball games with friends, and Tom, a contractor, lined the court with tape. Because he likes to play tennis, they didn't want a permanent pickleball court. Melissa, a stay-at-home mother, said that she kept tripping on the lines and taping them down every week was getting to be a hassle. Tom decided to paint half the tennis court in pink lines to delineate it from the tennis lines.

"Tom already had the paint, and measuring and making it straight was not a problem for him," Melissa said, adding the only cost was a portable net and paddles for less than $200. "Taping down the lines was the most time-consuming part. It took him a few hours because you have to get the line straight. And we'll have to repaint it in spots where it's fading."

But not everyone has the perfect surface ready to work with. Even homeowners with tennis courts may have to consider resurfacing or putting in a separate court, according to Paskiewicz, because many have clay or grass surfaces, which don't allow a pickleball to bounce.

What to consider before installing a sport court

Before deciding if you should make it a DIY or professionally installed project, take these points into account:

  1. The main consideration is space. Pickleball requires at least a 30-by-50-foot area, though regulation is 30-by-60. "Your property's got to be large enough, unless you want your entire backyard a court," Leogrande said. "I don't think people realize we're talking about 2,400 square feet. Most swimming pools are only 800 square feet. So if you think about having almost three swimming pools all next to each other, that's how big these courts are. You're not going to be doing it unless you have the space."
  2. Any type of sports court requires a flat surface, Paskiewicz said, otherwise you'll need construction and retaining walls. "Normally they're put in their backyard or side yard rather than a driveway, unless they have the space there," she said.
  3. Depending on your setback — the required number of feet between your home and your neighbor's, which varies for each town — you may not be able to build it, Paskiewicz added. "Plus, most towns require a permit because they're considered structures because they have posts."
  4. Consider which sports family members would be interested in. Leogrande said that for homeowners who just want to play, the concern is less about regulation court spaces. "If you have three kids and one likes to play basketball, the other kid likes to play volleyball, and the other likes to play pickleball, for them getting a multisport court installed is a home run because they can get everybody on that court."
  5. Think about how it would impact the design aesthetics of your property. Can you put it in a corner or do you want it to be the focal point where people will socialize? "I think backyard sports is on a par with when you design your backyard and landscape it," Serzo said.

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