By Kevin Greer
Lakeside Communications Manager
The Recreation Pillar schedule was loaded this past summer for the Sesquicentennial Celebration. All generations came together to step on the courts, get fit in a wellness class and try out a new sport. This kept Lakeside’s Director of Recreation & Wellness Katalin Domotorffy and her team of 85 employees active throughout the summer, especially when nearly 132,000 Lakesiders participated in programs.
“The number of recreational classes, activities and experiences took teamwork,” Domotorffy said.
The newest, most popular activity was the Youth Basketball Clinics that ran Monday-Thursday at the Bettinger Park courts. All three instructors were licensed basketball coaches and current or former college athletes. Lakeside Recreation Operations Manager and former Ashland University basketball player Phil Frentsos; current Ursuline College Coordinator of Basketball Operations Becky Styers; and College of Wooster football player Sebestyan Balassy taught the fundamentals of the game to players ages 5-12.
“The instructors had many years of playing and some youth coaching experience,” Domotorffy said. “They enjoyed watching the progress of the kids and seeing them off the courts. It was like having a new little friend at Lakeside.”
Checkers made a successful return and many Lakesiders jumped at the opportunity to play. The boards and tables on Walnut Plaza were used regularly during the summer. Checkers Grandmaster and National Champion Richard Beckwith made a couple of visits to Lakeside and presented lectures on how to win at Checkers and an introduction to new players. He also challenged up to nine competitors at a time to a game of Checkers and proved his skills by not losing a game with one ending in a draw.
“Those were really popular and fun to watch,” Domotorffy said. “I think everybody learned a lot about the game and despite not winning a match, they won a free ice cream cone.”
There was always plenty of action at the Hubbard Pickleball Center. Professional player and coach Carrina de Vera led two clinics over four days and Simone Jardim, the world’s top-ranked pickleball player for five years, extended her stay from her usual one week to two weeks. She was joined in Lakeside by some of the world’s top playing and teaching pros – Chad Edwards, Corrine Carr and Adam Stone – to host clinics, lessons and a ProAm.
Jardim and her team also taught private lessons, a new addition to her Lakeside schedule. There were more opportunities to play pickleball with two courts in Perry Park finished just in time for the 150th season.
The Williams Tennis Campus was as active as the neighboring pickleball courts. Professionals Steve Vaughan and Albert Matthews led a four-day Tennis Clinic that was popular. Lakeside also hosted a tournament against Catawba Island Club that included a buffet lunch for the players. The two courts in Perry Park were resurfaced and new fencing was added for Lakesiders who like to play with a view of Lake Erie.
“I think the highlight this season was seeing the growth in both tennis and pickleball,” Domotorffy said. “We saw many new families playing together, beginners playing and kids playing almost all day at Perry Park and the courts on Sixth Street. There was definitely an increase in participation for our 150th Anniversary.”
The water is one of Lakeside’s main attractions, both at the Grindley Aquatic & Wellness Campus and the lake. There were 40,000 participants in Open Swim at the pool, 364 took advantage of Swim Lessons at no charge and 672 got up early for Lap Swim. On the lake, there were 900 watercraft rentals, 90 sailing students and 51 racers in the Lakeside Sailing Regatta.
The Society of Old Salts (S.O.S.) did an outstanding job running Kids Setting Sail. The Sunday activity had 519 young Lakesiders take a ride on a Sunfish sailboat with an experienced sailing volunteer, the highest total since 2018. Since the program started in 2003, S.O.S. has given 11,189 youngsters the opportunity to sail on Lake Erie.
The Shuffleboard courts in Bettinger Park were full of shufflers all summer. There were a total of 29,592 shufflers throughout the season, including 276 tournament participants and an additional 135 signed up for youth events. Adult Beginner Lessons were popular with 140 people wanting to learn to how to play.
The 5K Raccoon Run and One-Mile Fun Run always attract a large group of athletes, but the races during the 150th season were like no other. A record was set this year with over 350 participants combined for the two events. A new tradition started during the awards ceremony as the Bob Brucken Honorary Award will be given to the oldest finisher of the 5K Raccoon Run every year. The award is in recognition of Brucken’s leadership in promoting the race. Brucken, a longtime Lakesider and devoted runner, has participated in almost every Raccoon Run since its inception in 1980.
“That was a special moment,” Domotorffy said. “Bob is such an inspiration.”
Domotorffy would like to thank those who support recreational programming, including the Lakeside Wooden Boat Society, S.O.S., Tennis & Pickleball communities, wellness teachers and lecturers, and the entire Lakeside Team. She also appreciates community members who have supported the recreation programs and staff throughout the summer and in the off-season. She says they not only contribute financially, but also by volunteering, giving ideas and words of gratitude and support.
“To me, the community and team is probably the most valuable of everything and the greatest level of importance,” she added.