History of Pickleball in St. James

The most interesting news about pickleball in 2023 is its continued growth in popularity. The sport has exploded in popularity in recent years, and it is now one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States. In fact, the number of pickleball players in the United States is expected to reach 50 million by 2027.

Pickleball in St James….In the beginning
St. James resident Fred Ammann and a small group of STJ residents started playing pickleball over on Oak Island in 2015. Fred felt it would be a great sport to have in St. James and solicited support from our POA. After several months of back and forth, the POA decided to pass on the opportunity to build some courts. Fred took the pitch to then Troon GM Ken Kosuk who showed immediate interest. By spring of 2016, at Fred’s suggestion, Troon management reappointed the tennis hitting wall space at Seaside into two pickleball courts. New lines and two portable nets were installed and we had our new Signature pickleball facility. So thanks to Fred and Troon management for getting it all started.

There are a number of reasons for pickleball’s popularity. The game is easy to learn and play, and it is a great way for people of all ages and fitness levels to get exercise. Pickleball is also a social sport, and it is a great way to meet new people and make friends.

St. James Plantation is no exception to the popularity of pickleball. In the Spring of 2018 Cindy Hettinger and a group of pickleball enthusiasts started a signup sheet for those who were interested, and it quickly grew to 277 people. Today, our St. James Pickleball Association (SJPA) has over 540 and is still growing for 2023.

Of course, the growth of pickleball has also created some challenges. One challenge is the need for more pickleball courts. As the number of players increases, so does the demand for courts.

Our Growth…
We have eight beautiful, lighted courts at the Greg Rymer Memorial Pickleball Courts, at 3911 St James Dr., and two courts at the Seaside Wellness Center. Our pickleball facilities are available to all St. James residents who are Signature Sports Members or Signature Golf Members and like to socialize with fellow picklers. You may choose to play socially at the scheduled drop-in hours, reserve court time for you and your partners to play on your own or play competitively at organized SJPA events. 

The SJPA volunteers run an event once a month called: New To Pickleball. This clinic teaches the basics of the game from serve to volley and dinking. It is a foundation for playing. If you’re not sure Pickleball is the game for you, this is the way to find out. This event is so popular that at times, we have doubled up on volunteers to help the large numbers of people interested in pickleball get a taste of this popular sport. You do not have to be a member of the St. James Pickleball Association (SJPA), however, you must be a member of the Clubs at St James. You must be a Signature Sport or Golf member. For this one-time only, if you are a Social Member, you will be assessed a $10 fee to use the courts. We have paused this introductory event during the heat of the summer. It will start up again in the fall.

In September of 2020 our first president, Scott Hettinger contacted Al Hausmann to create a logo and develop a website and an SJPA facebook page. SJPA website is an active, up-to-date, interactive website hosting all communications, events, socials, pictures, and external pickleball news. Alerts are sent out to all members regarding SJPA projects:

  • Invitations to parties and social events, including our annual holiday party.
  • SJPA sponsored tournaments.
  • SJPA sponsored leagues.
  • SJPA sponsored round robins.
  • SJPA sponsored ladders.
  • SJPA on-court and social events.
  • SJPA sends notifications about local pickleball events and camps.
  • Always check the SJPA website for the most important and timely information! https://stjamespickleball.com

 We have many events to raise money for donation to local charities:

  • Winter Dance featuring The Salty Dawgs raised $3325 to benefit Matthew’s Ministry raised
  • Our Social Committee also ran our 2nd Annual Spring Fling (an outdoor music festival) raising $4309 for the Southport Oak Island Interchurch Fellowship Food Pantry (SOIIFFP).
  • Make a Wish Social Fundraiser
  • We are providing volunteers and donating paddles for a summer camp for under-served kids in Brunswick County.
  • Our Sunshine Committee provides a little sunshine to SJPA members who’ve experienced an illness, injury, or loss of an immediate family member, and also sponsors food drives at many of our events to benefit the Southport Oak Island Interchurch Fellowship Food Pantry (SOIIFFP).

Renew Membership Yearly to Support Pickleball Growth
Every year we have our membership drive for the upcoming year. A SJPA membership costs only $20 / year per person. Membership runs from January 1 to December 31 of each year. The registration form can be found on the SJPA website. We also appreciate non-playing individuals who join the SJPA and just want to support pickleball in our community.

SJPA Board of Directors is our advocate and directly represents our members with the Clubs At St. James management (Troon). The SJPA has existed for four years so we have had four presidents, starting with: Scott Hettinger, Andrea Velez, Sharen Hausmann, and our current president: Deb Chiarello.  

Our current board (for 2023) consists of: Deb Chiarello, and George Johnson, Kathy McArthur, Mary Heatherly, Al Hausmann, Jeff Franken, and Liz Wilson.

  Membership Benefits:

  • SJPA sponsored social events such as pool parties, progressive dinner, beach parties, and more.
  • SJPA organized on-court social events, fundraisers, round robins, tournaments, and leagues.
  • SJPA sponsored beginner pickleball instructional play.
  • Other opportunities to mix and mingle with fellow SJPA members.
  • Direct communication with our club owners, Troon, via the Sports Advisory Committee, where the SJPA continues to advocate for improvements, expansion, programming, etc. on behalf of our membership.

We hope you find this information helpful. If you have any concerns or questions, the SJPA Board members may be able to offer some assistance. You can find the Board members listed on the SJPA website. We look forward to seeing you on the courts!  

We love pickleball, and so will you!