A $20,000 donation to the city of Manchester will partially fund the addition of pickleball courts to Tirrell Park as well as serve as a pilot program that could bring additional pickleball courts to Northeast Iowa communities.

The donation comes in the form of a grant from Robert “Bud” and Georgia Johnson, of Monticello. The Johnsons winter in Arizona, where Bud was first introduced to pickleball while visiting friends in Arizona three years ago. Since that introduction to the sport, Johnson says he plays at least once a day and sometimes twice.

He believes it’s a game that is good for everybody. “It’s a sport you can play with minimal athletic ability. In pickleball, you are moving all the time. You can make it as hard or as easy as you want and still have fun. It’s the fastest-growing game in the United States.”

The donation to Manchester will serve as a pilot program as Johnson would like to assist other Iowa communities to build pickleball courts. The grant requirements are that communities come up with a 1:1 match of funds necessary to construct the court. In addition, the grant calls for the building of two courts for pickleball only with an eight feet high fence around the court and a four feet fence between courts. Construction must begin before Oct. 1.

Manchester Parks and Recreation Director Doug Foley said the city will build the courts at Tirrill Park and cited a need to update the existing tennis courts at the park.

“We’ve had some issues with the courts there over the years,” Foley explained. “With the grant, we can turn our two tennis courts into two pickleball courts and one tennis court, along with redoing the fencing and the lighting.”

Foley said he expects work on the courts to begin in late August after the swimming pool season ends.

While Manchester already has four pickleball courts, along with one at the Rec Center, the outside courts are on tennis courts and not dedicated solely to pickleball.

Johnson is owner of MinnTex Citrus in Monticello, a family-owned business that provides fresh fruit, along with cheese and sausage, to fundraising groups. He said his business relationship with the West Delaware FFA was instrumental in selecting Manchester for the initial grant.

“We have had a long-standing relationship with the West Delaware FFA. They have been a customer for close to 30 years. Manchester is a great community.”

Johnson said in 2022 he hopes to provide the grants for 10 pickleball courts in Eastern Iowa.

“We will be looking at other communities we have had longstanding relationships with as a way to say thank you,” he said. “We are also targeting communities of under 10,000 people. Sometimes it can be harder to do things in small towns, so that is where our focus will be.”

“We are excited to provide this opportunity to the community, to better Tirrell Park and add another recreational opportunity to our parks,” Foley said. “It will be nice to have courts exactly dedicated to pickleball.”