Pickleball courts open twice weekly in Mount Morris’ former junior high gym

DLR owner Fred Kenney working with volunteers to offer the public a place to play

Kim Carlson, of Leaf River, back left, and Michelle Brandemuehl, of Mount Morris, face off against Bob Hachmeister, of Leaf River, front left, and Randall Westfall, of Oregon, in a game of pickleball in the former David L. Rahn Junior High School on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.

MOUNT MORRIS – Those in Mount Morris and the surrounding area interested in playing pickleball have a place to go.

The former David L. Rahn Junior High School gym is open to pickleball players from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, building owner Fred Kenney said.

“It’s so nice to have people use it,” Kenney said. “The goal of the whole building, the purchase, was to kind of preserve it. It’s a historic property and one of the largest buildings in town.”

Kenney purchased the school and surrounding property from the Oregon School District 220 Board for $51,000 in August 2022.

On Feb. 22, 2022, board members voted 4-2 to close DLR at the end of the 2021-22 school year and move seventh- and eighth-grade students to Oregon High School. The decision came despite pleas from Mount Morris officials and residents to keep the school open.

People play pickleball at the former David L. Rahn Junior High School building on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.

There are community members who assist by organizing the pickleball playing times and ensuring participants can get in and out of DLR without wandering the building, Kenney said.

Without them, opening the building for things such as this wouldn’t be possible, he said.

“It’s going to sound cliché, but it takes a village,” Kenney said. “There’s no one person who can manage this building without community involvement. That’s where pickleball comes in.”

The twice-weekly pickleball game times started in January, Kenney said. Village officials helped by providing nets and some extra paddles, he said.

Pickleball is “a surprisingly fun little sport,” and having a spot for people to play indoors in the winter months is nice, Kenney said.

Currently, there aren’t any official leagues that use the space, but it’s something Kenney said he would welcome.

“We would welcome a league or a tournament or something along those lines,” he said. “It’s more notice, and maybe more people play, which can help in the maintenance of courts and the building.”

Kim Carlson, of Leaf River, serves a paddleball during a two-versus-two game at the former David L. Rahn Junior High School on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.
Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner reports on Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties for Shaw Media out of the Dixon office. Previously, she worked for the Record-Eagle in Traverse City, Michigan, and the Daily Jefferson County Union in Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin.