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Pickleball facility on schedule to open in May

by MACKENZIE REISS
Bigfork Eagle | February 3, 2021 2:10 AM

Bigfork’s pickleball up-and-coming facility, the Jewel Basin Center, doesn’t have four complete walls yet, but interest in the location is already booming. Pickleball, one of the fastest growing sports in America, has lured players to the courts for its ease of play and social nature. Flathead County is home to hundreds of enthusiasts who will have the opportunity to test their skills when the Jewel opens in May, weather allowing. The 12,000 square foot facility will include four indoor and six outdoor courts and feature a hydraulically elevated wall so players can take in the mountain views, no matter where they’re playing at. The Jewel is hoping to host a live music series and is in the process of applying for a liquor license.

Founder Jim Lafferty said the burgeoning pickleball center will benefit Bigfork’s economy in addition to growing the local sporting scene. The Two Rivers Pickleball Club, which will operate out of the Jewel, already boasts 145 members and the club has a number of events on deck for the summer, including their first tournament. From July 16-18, up to 225 players will be welcomed to Bigfork for the tournament, which will be sanctioned by the Senior International Pickleball Association for players 50 years old and up.

“It's going to draw people from all over the country,” Lafferty said, noting that he’s already received interest from players as far off as Texas, Iowa and Minnesota.

Individual players aren’t the only ones taking note of the developing facility — Pickleball Tours, a Colorado-based pickleball travel company, has orchestrated not one but two trips centered around the Jewel. Nine-time U.S. Pickleball Champion Daniel Moore will lead the multi-day tours, the first of which begins July 28.

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A rendering shows the soon to be constructed Jewel Basin Center in Bigfork. The 12,000 square foot facility will serve as the home of the Two Rivers Pickleball Club and a local event venue. (Courtesy Jim Lafferty)

“We are just giddy because we are the only domestic trip they've ever booked,” Lafferty said. “I couldn’t believe that they reached out and said is there a chance we could do this at your new club?” And after the first trip sold out, the company inquired about holding a second one three weeks later.

Development is also progressing on the homefront. Two Rivers launched the Crown of the Continent Club for inaugural members which comes with pickleball swag in addition to a frozen membership rate for three years and a spot on a founding members plaque inside the building.

Construction of the facility itself is progressing on schedule with a target opening date for the indoor portion of the Jewel set for this May. Drivers passing by the Montana 35 and 83 intersection can observe the shell of the facility.

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The game gets competitive at the Montana Athletic Club pickleball courts.

“It’s going really, really well. We’ve been really blessed with great weather,” Lafferty noted. Construction on the indoor courts depends on the arrival of more temperate weather but Lafferty estimated that the outdoor playing area would be ready for action by the end of June. By that time guests will also be able to enjoy a spacious outdoor patio that sits about three feet above the outdoor courts to provide a good vantage point as well as wind protection for the players.

To learn more about the Jewel Basin Center and Two Rivers Pickleball Club, visit www.tworiverspickleball.com, email trpc.mem@gmail.com or search for the club on Facebook.