Arizona

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Pickleball: The Sport with a Funny Name is Serious About Tourism

6 Apr, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher
Rapidly Growing Court Sport Giving Rise to Designated Facilities, National Tournaments and More

The sport with the funny name is getting pretty serious – even to the point of having designated facilities. And those, it is hoped, can attract national competitions.

Pickleball, a paddle sport that looks a bit like tennis but is played with a ball similar to a whiffle ball, is growing at an astonishing rate; the USA Pickleball Association recorded 527 new places to play in 2013 – an average of 44 new facilities a month.

Add to that growth a facility to be reckoned with: the newly renovated Marianette Center in Sun City, Arizona. According to an article in Your West Valley, the rec center facility’s $4.4 million project resulted in a total of 20 designated pickleball courts as well a new 4,020-square-foot fitness center, refurbished outdoor pool, new outdoor spa, restrooms and shower areas, meeting space, expanded restroom areas, video monitoring system and an outdoor patio area. (There also are a basketball half-court, rubberized walking track and horseshoe pit – three amenities that will take another three to four weeks to complete.)

The covered courts are the only ones in the Northwest Valley and one of the few sites in the greater Phoenix area. In addition to offering the potential for local tournaments, it also provides the opportunity for events drawing from throughout the Valley and even the Southwest, said David Sinclair, president of the Sun City Pickleball Club, which claims about 425 members.

Competition, he added, might even include the possibility of at least one non-age-restricted event.

“We’ve had a lot of inquiries. This is just fantastic for Sun City,” Sinclair said.

Pickleball has grown explosively in popularity; many courts have waiting times, and in some areas, installation of lighting is being considered in order to extend the playing day and allow each facility to host more matches. (In other areas where gymnasiums, tennis courts and other sports facilities also host pickleball, there can be contention between players of various sports jockeying for usage time).

The USA Pickleball Association notes that it sanctions tournaments nationwide; it also holds a national tournament annually. The 2013 nationals were the largest in the history of the sport, with 648 people registered, coming from 39 states and five countries.

“The event ran on 28 courts for a full seven days, and had 1,677 matches. We had singles, doubles, mixed doubles, age bracket play plus an open division. Age divisions went as high as 85-plus,” noted Justin Maloof, executive director of USAPA.

Pickleball is growing to the point of developing its own media content, including a designated Pickleball Channel, a new web-based community for pickleball enthusiasts, that has experienced exponential fan growth since its launch in March, 2014. 

The sport has been embraced by the baby boomer population, and this year, makes its debut at the National Senior Games, to be held in Minnesota.

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