The city of Hiawassee, Georgia, in Towns County is tucked away in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is home to the Georgia Mountain Fair, the Georgia Mountain Big Green Egg festival, music concerts and a stream of car, bicycle and motorcycle events geared toward young active retirees. It’s also home to a very vibrant community known as Georgia Mountain Pickleball.
Two and a half years ago the county was completing a new recreation center and agreed to put permanent lines for four indoor pickleball courts on the basketball courts. This started the wave of pickleball in the county and, as word spread, more and more people were drawn into the sport.
The community was soon bursting at the seams and, due to the growing numbers and to many disruptions of the three-day-per-week schedule at the recreation center from basketball camps, games, etc., players began to look for possible additional venues. County Commissioner Bill Kendall is very sports-minded and was impressed with the commitment, drive, enthusiasm and growing numbers. He agreed to help renovate an abandoned county-owned four-court tennis complex that was both unsightly and non-functional (with multiple cracks, weeds, rusted fencing, and mold and mildew covering the court surface).
The original plan was to clean up the courts, repair the cracks and paint the surface. The pickleball group formed a work party and did the cleanup and were preparing to fill in all the cracks when the county, in a desire to help, filled all the cracks with road tar. Unfortunately, this rendered the courts unusable due to the soft nature of tar and the fact that paint won’t adhere to tar.
The complex sat for several months in that condition. In the meantime, the pickleball group received permission to revamp two abandoned tennis courts at the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds and play there for over a year on four makeshift courts, even though the surface was quite rough and uneven.
Eventually the commissioner, who remained impressed with the group’s dedication, enthusiasm, and still growing numbers, entered into negotiations with Signature Tennis Courts, Inc. out of Woodstock, Georgia. With the county’s help with some of the materials, grading, and equipment, they would completely resurface the complex with 6"-8" of compacted gravel, 2"-3" of asphalt, and a sealer coat followed by two coats of paint, court lines and permanent nets. The project was completed in September, 2015, just two days before the first regional tournament. The Towns County Pickleball Complex is now a dedicated 14-court state-of-the-art facility situated on Lake Chatuge with beautiful mountain views as a backdrop. A paved parking area, windscreens, several benches and awnings for shade have since been added. The total cost for this renovation to date has been just under $100,000.
Future plans include the addition of a covered pavilion, restrooms and lights.
Since opening, several tournaments for charities have been staged and the group just completed its first major one this past May that exceeded all expectations. It is estimated that the economic impact to the community for this tournament was over $400,000.
The first sanctioned tournament, the Georgia Mountain Pickleball Fall Classic, will be held September 16-18. Look for it on PickleballTournaments.com.
The goal is to make the county a pickleball destination whereby visitors can come and experience the beauty of the area and play pickleball at this beautiful complex. There are several wineries in the area, which is rich in bed and breakfasts, cabins and cottages, hotels, motels and resorts, as well as several four- and five-star restaurants. The area has three TVA lakes: Chatuge, Nottely, and Hiawassee. Thirty minutes away is the German Village Town of Helen and there’s Brasstown Bald, the tallest peak in Georgia, and over 10 beautiful waterfalls. There are dozens of hiking trails and the Appalachian Trail passes through Towns County.
For campers, there are several large RV resort centers in the area, including one adjacent to the Towns County Pickleball Complex. Brasstown Valley Resort and Spa is a world-class resort with a long list of amenities including a championship golf course.
For a fun-filled sightseeing, camping, hiking, horseback riding, fishing, water skiing vacation combined with playing pickleball, this part of the Blue Ridge Mountains should be on everyone’s “bucket list” of things to do.
John Hall, USAPA Ambassador in Hiawassee, GA, is retired and a former lead engineer for the Space Shuttle program. He’s also the creator and organizer of the largest satellite eggfest in the country, the Georgia Mountain Big Green Eggfest. John’s next goal is to make Hiawassee a real pickleball destination for players all across the country.