This article originally appeared in the September/October 2022 issue of Pickleball Magazine. Visit pickleballmagazine.com for more.
On the heels of an era where communities have gone through challenging periods of isolation, one unique facility aims to bring people together. Kevin Richards launched RECS Recreate, Exercise, Compete, Socialize — in early 2022 with pickleball as its flagship sport. Richards’ mission? Building a sporting community with an emphasis on good sportsmanship, inclusiveness and positivity. And that’s exactly what the team at the Clackamas, Oregon-based RECS has done in less than a year.
Richards’ path to founding RECS began in 1999 when he witnessed the excitement for Sepak Takraw, the national sport of Malaysia.
“I’ve always appreciated non-traditional, hybrid games and sports as alternatives to more traditional sports,” Richards said. “More often than not, the origin stories of such sports and games come from the human need for unadulterated recreation that we aim to celebrate.
“The pickleball origin story is a great example. A wave of boredom, a dash of ingenuity, and a dose of mischievous collaboration was all it took to plant the seed for what has surpassed phenomenon status and possibly passed the tipping point in terms of widespread adoption.”
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Richards said he was vaguely aware of pickleball in the 90s, but it wasn’t until he was re-introduced to the sport a decade ago that a business concept of RECS emerged.
The community response has been overwhelmingly positive. After a soft launch in late January, nearly 2,000 participants have played at RECS. RECS offers a free pickleball introduction class a few times a month in addition to court reservations, group play, clinics, private lessons, tournaments, leagues and camps.
If you think RECS sounds like a happening place, you’d be right. Richards estimates that in less than a year, the nine courts will be full nearly 16 hours a day.
“The approach RECS has taken — retrofitting unused industrial space with professionally applied surfacing, pro-grade nets and lighting, finishing it off with amenities is a strategy we’re seeing with increasing frequency within urban boundaries,” said Carl Schmits, USA Pickleball Managing Director; Equipment Standards & Facilities Development.
RECS may boast top-notch amenities, but it’s the community-building aspect that keeps players coming back. That community includes Oregonians and Hall of Fame players Steve Paranto and Enrique Ruiz, who are lifetime members of RECS. With the President of the Pickleball Hall of Fame Seymour Rifkind present, RECS celebrated Paranto and Ruiz.
“Honoring the history, culture, and legacy of the sport and those who played key a role in building it was always part of my plan, and we’ve been fortunate to have an incredible community of individuals in the area who have played pivotal roles in the earlier stages of pickleball’s evolution,” Richards said.
With the sport positioned to continue its impressive growth, RECS is among the facilities poised to fuel that growth in a post-COVID world.
“Coming out of the pandemic, people are really in need of community, and this is a big part of what we are building,” Richards said.
To find a pickleball facility near you, visit usapickleball.org/play/places-2-play.