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Recreational players thrive at Kenneth City pickleball courts


After a match at the James Ernst Park courts in Kenneth City, Mark Scott and Karla Gerczak touch paddles with Rhonda Sanborn and Darby Place.
After a match at the James Ernst Park courts in Kenneth City, Mark Scott and Karla Gerczak touch paddles with Rhonda Sanborn and Darby Place.

The James Ernst Park court behind a cluster of municipal buildings in Kenneth City is not the ideal place to look for top-notch pickleball players honing their skills to compete in high-caliber tournaments in the Tampa Bay area.


What you will find, however, is a mix of seasoned players and relatively inexperienced newcomers who simply seek a bit of exercise and plenty of socialization.


Count Vice Mayor Bonnie Noble and Police Chief Michael Vieno, both of whom work in the adjacent buildings, among that group.

Karla Gerczak hits a backhand return as teammate Steven Pomdales watches.
Karla Gerczak hits a backhand return as teammate Steven Pomdales watches.

Noble began playing pickleball when an impromptu group formed in the spring of 2022 and now is a regular at sessions that take place from 9-11 a.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. For his part, Vieno tried playing pickleball once so far and likely will play again.


“It’s for the ones who don’t want to get stuck in a ladder league. They just want to play,” said Noble, adding that she came out “to stay active and support the community.”


Added Vieno, “I think it’s awesome. I enjoyed the teamwork.”

Bonnie Noble keeps her eyes on a return by partner Bill Gerczak in a mixed doubles match.
Bonnie Noble keeps her eyes on a return by partner Bill Gerczak in a mixed doubles match.

So does Donna Scott, a co-founder of St. Petersburg Beach Pickleball who has played for the past 13 years: “I’m a pleasure player. I like to have fun and just play.”


Fun also is the objective for Bill and Karla Gerczak, snowbirds from Michigan. They teach pickleball classes at Eckerd College and knew Scott when they lived in Pasadena. They moved to Kenneth City last year and got with Noble and city officials to come up with

recreational sessions at the courts there.


“We just want to keep it recreational; have some fun and exercise,” Bill said. “It’s the social aspect. People drop in and we play.”

Donna Scott, co-founder of St. Petersburg Beach Pickleball, smiles for a photo on the pickleball courts.
Donna Scott, who plays on the courts at Kenneth City, is a co-founder of St. Petersburg Beach Pickleball.

Karla noted that sessions at Kenneth City are “good for people who are just learning and need more practice.” Bill also said he and his wife, ambassadors for the Atlantic South Region of the USA Pickleball Association, incorporate various games for those who show up. The idea, they said, is to make it fun while teaching aspects of the game.


Inventive ideas have included zing-zang, where players keep the ball in the air without letting it bounce; shot-blocking; and a game where people who lose a point step off the court with a replacement coming in. The latter drill results in a lot of interchanging.


While mostly adults have shown up at the Kenneth City courts, Noble pointed out

that kids are welcome too.


By Steve Lee

Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos by Steve Lee

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