THE 1050 PROJECT
A quest to find Canada ’ s secret pickleball history .
’ t remember how the photo ended up on my desktop . It was taken in the early 1980s . A shirtless man with a mustache and a Chevron cap playing pickleball on the rooftop of an office tower in downtown Vancouver .
There was a net and what appeared to be permanent lines . There was something graceful about the man ’ s movement — evocative of Jerry West in the NBA logo . Clearly , this was not the first time the man had played the game . And someone had to have hit him the ball . Was it possible a couple of dudes with mustaches just built a court on the rooftop so they could play pickleball at lunch in 1984 ? There had to be others .
Recently , a Toronto colleague , Jon de la Mothe , messaged me excitedly . He ’ d discovered a curious detail in the Pickleball Canada archives . Did I know anything about a league of 48 teams playing in the early 1980s in Vancouver ?
As we chatted , I texted him the photo of the shirtless pickleball player with the mustache .
“ Wow !” And then he sent back a recent image from Google Earth . In all the scenarios I imagined , it had never crossed my mind that the court still existed . And not just one court , but two .
The address is 1050 West Pender Street . In 1984 , the building was the home of Daon Development . Vancouver icon Jack Poole was Daon ’ s CEO . Poole was ultimately responsible for bringing the Olympics to Vancouver in 2010 . We sent the images out through the local pickleball community . Photos of other players from the 1050 rooftop league emerged .
I excitedly reached out to the building ’ s manager about accessing the roof . We could resurrect the forgotten pickleball league ! As quickly as we had discovered the secret court , we discovered the roof had been resurfaced
By Chris Koentges
a couple of months earlier . Its stewards never knew the lines were a pickleball court .
Chatting with Jon , we told ourselves there had to be more of these courts elsewhere in Canada . Among other intriguing ideas , The 1050 Project raises the question : What IS a pickleball court ?
The collective Canadian psyche teems with imagery of frozen rivers and ponds , of an old-timer in the neighborhood dutifully flooding patches of a local park on bitter cold nights , tending to the ice for families in the neighborhood to play hockey in the morning . For most pickleball players in Canada , however , the game seems to have emerged from YouTube , with no significant context .
With chalk and a portable net , any surface on Earth can become a pickleball court . But , as we say in Vancouver , lines on concrete are just lines on concrete . A pickleball court is a community . Every court has its own diverse characters and culture . The 1050 Project is an attempt to understand the ways that local pickleball culture has grown from seeds sown in unlikely spots at unlikely points of time . •
Chris Koentges has written about true underdogs and sports subculture for The Atlantic , ESPN Magazine , and Bleacher Report . Recently , he helped revive the fabled Jericho Hill Pickleball School ( jerichohillpickleball . com