OGDEN -- The city's newest potential sports offering could put players in a pickle.
Pickleball, a fast-growing game that's a combination of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, may be coming to Mount Ogden Park.
John Gullo, who heads the American Dream Foundation, and his wife, Karen, are offering to pay more than $40,000 to construct four pickleball courts at the park at 1787 Constitution Way, which is near his home.
The courts would be a valuable recreational asset to the city, said Perry Huffaker, the city's manager of public ways and parks.
The Ogden Planning Commission has determined that the pickleball proposal is consistent with the city's general plan. Mayor Matthew Godfrey granted final approval Friday for construction of the courts.
"We're hopeful that this is something that's exciting and will be well-used," said Godfrey, who praised Gullo for funding the courts.
Huffaker is hopeful the courts, which all told would have a playing surface nearly equal to the size of a single regulation tennis court, can be built by the end of the year.
Gullo said he will fund the courts because pickleball has been instrumental in his recovery from a November 2008 heart surgery.
"It has tremendous physical benefits," said Gullo, who plays three days a week, two hours a day near his winter home in St. George. "It's very easy to learn. It's physical but not physically killing."
Gullo hopes to create a pickleball association to host local tournaments at the park.
"It fits in with Mayor Matthew Godfrey's plan of making Ogden a recreation destination," he said. "I don't know how anybody will object to it."
The courts would be built east of the existing tennis courts at Mount Ogden Park. A 930-square-foot extension of the sidewalk that runs along the east side of the tennis courts would be built to provide access to the pickleball courts. The pickleball courts would also be fenced to contain the ball on the site.
Named after Pickles, a cocker spaniel that belonged to the sport's co-inventor, Joel Pritchard, a former congressman from Washington state, pickleball has been around since 1965, according to the USA Pickleball Association's website at www.usapa.org.
It is played on a badminton-sized court with the net lowered to 34 inches at the center. Players use a perforated plastic baseball similar to a Whiffle ball and wood or composite paddles, the website states.
Currently, the only pickleball court in Ogden is at Youth Impact, a nonprofit organization at 2305 Grant Ave. that provides activities for at-risk youth.
Gullo said he paid about $1,000 to establish the court that became operational about a month ago. The money was used to paint boundary lines on an existing volleyball court and to buy a net and equipment.
Pickleball has been a hit at Youth Impact, said Robb Hall, director of the organization.
"The kids dig it," he said. "It doesn't get really brutal, but it's competitive."