I thought I would hate pickleball. There, I said it.
On Christmas Eve—yes, you read that right—my family and I were invited to Minneapolis Cider Company for a private gathering. (A perk of knowing co-owner and cidermaker, Rob Fisk.) Of course, you can play pickleball at various community centers and parks around the metro—Andover Community Center, YMCA Burnsville, Moor Park in Coon Rapids, and Riley Lake Park in Eden Prairie to name a few—but Minneapolis Cider Company is the first and only Minnesota taproom to offer pickleball. That means, not only do you get to play an enjoyable sport, but you can drink, eat, and mingle, too. How cool is that?
After getting a rundown of the rules, which is the trickiest part of the whole game, we paired off into teams and took to the courts. I knew it was similar to tennis, a sport I never quite could catch onto, so I assumed I would also dislike pickleball. But I was wrong—very wrong. Having not played an active sport in years, it took some time to dust off the cobwebs, but soon I was running around the court as in my more youthful volleyball-playing years and breaking a sweat. I loved it! It was fun and easy to play for both us young adults and our older parents.
I was curious to know why Minneapolis Cider Company added pickleball courts to its taproom. “Wasn’t pickleball a sport for senior citizens?” I naively thought. So, I asked.
“We were looking for a way to create more of an engaging taproom experience,” Fisk says. “We think cider and spirits can be more than just a passive drinking occasion but something that brings people together in an active way. Cider drinkers, by nature, are social, engaging, and active in the community. Pickleball is a great way to be social and have fun, with a little competition mixed in. It’s a fast-growing sport, easy to learn and really pretty enjoyable for all skill levels. We thought it was a perfect fit for our culture in the Twin Cities.”
Now, having played the game, I couldn’t agree more. Sure, it may not be the sport for everyone, but don’t be surprised if you’re hooked after one game.
If you’re not familiar with the game, here are the basics.
- Paddle: Pickleball is played using a paddle that is smaller than a tennis racquet but bigger than a ping-pong paddle. Most of today’s paddles are made from composite materials such as aluminum and graphite.
- Pickleball: The pickleball is a plastic ball with holes, much like a whiffle ball. An outdoor pickleball is harder and has smaller holes while an indoor pickleball has larger holes.
Pickleball courts are the same size as badminton courts, measuring 22 by 44 feet. Each side of the court is comprised of a left service area, right service area, and non-volley zone (known as the kitchen). The net measures 34-36 inches.
Serving: Players serve behind the baseline and must serve underhand. The ball must land cross-court, passed the non-volley zone on every serve. If it does not, that player is done serving and it moves to the next player. The first serve of the game is made from the right-hand side of the court and alternates after every point.
The same player serves, alternating sides until their team commits a fault. Once their team loses the point, the player’s partner gets the opportunity to serve before allowing the opposing team to serve.
The first team to serve only gets one serve to start the game.
Each game is played to 11 points, but one team must win by two points. Only the team that is serving can score points.
Before every serve, the player that is serving calls out the score, which is a set of three numbers. First, the scoring team’s score, then the receiving team’s score, finally the server’s number. The first server of the game is server No. 2 for that team while the other player is server No. 1. However, the first server of the receiving team is No. 1 and their teammate is No. 2. For example, a score could be 8-5-2.
When a player returns a serve, that player must allow the ball to bounce once before hitting it back. The serving team then must also allow the ball to bounce once before hitting it back on this return. After those two returns, the ball can be hit in the air before it bounces or after one bounce.
Remember the non-volley zone known as the kitchen? Players cannot hit the ball while standing in this zone unless the ball first bounces in the non-volley zone.
Play & Cost
- Leagues: Pickleball can be played as doubles or singles. Minneapolis Cider Company currently offers doubles leagues on Tuesdays for co-ed teams and a Thursday doubles league for women. Leagues are $130 per team, or $65 per person. Joining a league ensures you play five weeks of games—playing two teams per week—and a tournament. Paddle rental is $3 per day.
- Court rental: The taproom’s two courts can be reserved anytime during business hours for $40 per court, per hour. Paddles are available to rent.
- Pick-up Pickleball: On Wednesdays, the taproom offers open play from 7-11 p.m. Open play is $5 per person. No reservations are required, and you can play as long as you’d like.
Minneapolis Cider Company offers more than great cider, a resident food truck, and pickleball. The taproom hosts countless events every month—Yoga + Cider, Trivia Tuesday, murder mystery dinners, live music, comedy acts, and more. Its next upcoming special event is a pop-up indoor dog park 1-5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 26.
For more active entertainment, check out our outdoor winter to-do list.