Pickleball Continues Its Rally
2 Nov, 2020By: Peter Francesconi
The sport of pickleball continues to expand throughout the country, and the world. The latest research from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association puts the number of pickleball players in the U.S. at 3.46 million — and growing.
According to USA Pickleball (USAP), there currently are about 33,000 indoor and outdoor pickleball courts in all 50 U.S states (which are listed in the USAP’s Places2Play database on usapickleball.org.). The sport is played by all ages, at all levels, and tournaments and events tend to be fun, social events that fill up quickly.
USA Pickleball continues to promote all things pickleball, including have about 1,900 pickleball “ambassadors” across the country, who advocate for the sport, help get courts and facilities built, offer programming, run tournaments and bring in more and more players.
Here are some key pickleball locations, looking to host players and fans of the sport.
Brandon Fudge, the sports sales manager for the Boise CVB, estimates that 80 percent of the parks in the city have pickleball courts, which are in constant use. USA Pickleball has regional ambassadors for the sport in Boise, and there are two organizations working to promote the sport: the Boise Pickleball Club and the Boise Area Pickleball Association. The privately owned Eagle Tennis Club has 12 permanently lined indoor pickleball courts, and a mezzanine that provides spectator viewing.
“Pickleball is big here and is growing rapidly,” Fudge says, “so much so, that we’re trying to get more and more courts. We have eight new courts that just went in at Hobble Creek Park.” He adds that the area is looking at attracting some regional pickleball tournaments, including USAP qualifying events, since “We have the demand, the competitors and the courts.”
Boise is all about being outdoors and active, says Fudge, “and pickleball falls right in line for people who want to come here for sports. We’re right where the mountains start, and we have a clean, accessible downtown that’s a perfect size, with great nightlife and dining. It’s a great place to stay downtown, and you can get to any of our sports venues within 20 minutes.”
Pickleball also is poised for major growth in Edmond, with the recent opening of the new Kickingbird Pickleball Center. “We took over the old Kickingbird Tennis Center and took out tennis and put in pickleball,” says Craig Dishman, the director of Parks & Recreation for the City of Edmond.
The new center, which just opened this summer, offers 32 outdoor pickleball courts and 12 indoor courts. The Greater Oklahoma City Pickleball Club, with more than 700 members, keeps the facility hopping. Tournaments are planned and there’s interest in bringing a large pickleball tournament to Edmond.
“We spend a lot of money on quality of life projects here,” Dishman notes. “There are a lot of opportunities here, as we look to be the sports capital of Oklahoma.”
Edmond is just north of Oklahoma City and is near I-35, I-44 and I-40. The city began at the crossroads of Route 66 and the Santa Fe Railroad, and offers many activities when players and spectators take a break from the courts.
“In the last five years, we’ve gotten into the pickleball world,” says Denise Clayton, the recreation manager for the City of Scottsdale Parks & Recreation. “We’ve converted two tennis courts in neighborhood parks to eight pickleball courts. In a public-private partnership, one neighborhood funded the conversion of a basketball court to three pickleball courts, then we added three more courts.” In total, there are 19 permanent pickleball courts at three locations throughout Scottsdale.
Scottsdale, of course, is a premier travel destination, too, with many resorts that offer excellent racquet and paddle facilities, and many other amenities, too. Off the court, there are many activities for adults and kids, from the great outdoors to the many museums and galleries.
“We’ve been blessed with room to roam,” says Erika Pumphrey, the senior national sales manager with ExperienceScottsdale.com. “Hiking, biking, kayaking, day trips, our beautiful spas, shopping and dining — we’re such a diverse destination, and we appeal to multigenerational travelers.”
Snohomish County, Washington
Pickleball continues to be popular in Snohomish County. The Parks Department for the City of Edmonds created an annual pickleball tournament in 2015 which has been bringing in close to 150 players. Unfortunately, the coronavirus forced the cancellation of the event this year, but it should be back in 2021, says Tammy Dunn, executive director of the Snohomish County Sports Commission. The tourney is held in Yost Park, which has eight pickleball courts. The sport also is played indoor at the Frances Anderson Center.
The Sports Commission can assist tournaments and events in many ways, including arranging hotel and venue site tours, recruiting volunteers to help work events, community awareness and public relations, supplying visitor information and welcome packets, social media and much more.
The area also has more than 6,100 hotel rooms available, including two new hotels that just opened over the summer. Most of the accommodations are in Linwood and Everett, both along the I-5 corridor, allowing for easy access for travelers from Seattle, Portland, Spokane and British Columbia. Everett also is home to Paine Field Airport.
The pickleball community in Springfield, Illinois, led by the Springfield Pickleball Club, is active and involved, and continues to promote the sport. The city has two main pickleball venues: Iles Park, which has eight lighted courts, and Douglas Park, with six courts — all competition-ready.
Both parks are owned by the Springfield Park District, and the pickleball courts were converted from former tennis courts, with money raised by the Springfield Pickleball Club.
“The main fundraiser is the Scheels Capital City Pickleball Classic, which generally brings in about 300 people,” says Terry Truman with Visit Springfield. “Of course, not holding the tournament this year [due to COVID-19] was a bit of a hit to them, but the community is really stepping up to help them, including the Capital Area Sports Commission.”
The Scheels Capital City tourney draws players mainly from the Midwest, but competitors from as far as California have played the event, which is a USAP-sanctioned tournament.
In addition to rewarding pickleball play, visitors to Illiinois’ capital will find the area rich in history. Springfield’s best-known resident, of course, is Abraham Lincoln, and the city is home to his Presidential Library and Museum and the Lincoln Home National Historic Site and the Lincoln Tomb, among many other historic locations. Exhibits are ongoing, too.
Springfield also is on the iconic Route 66, going through the heart of the city as it winds from Chicago to Los Angeles. The dozens of attractions on this famous road have existed for generations — and continue to attract new generations of fans and visitors.
The award-winning Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex, managed by the city’s Parks & Rec Department, has 25 tennis courts and 16 permanent pickleball courts, and is maintained to world-class standards.
While well-known for its tennis, the Surprise complex is bringing in an increasing number of pickleball events. The facility started with eight pickleball courts born from two tennis courts.
“We have so many pickleball players here, they advocated for those courts and more, and we ended up adding eight more courts two years ago,” says Bill Lucero, who manages the Surprise Tennis & Racquet Complex.
The facility partners with USA Pickleball and other groups to bring in events, including the USAP’s Wester Regional and regional and world tournaments with the Super Senior International Pickleball Association. The largest event so far was a USAP tournament with nearly 800 players.
“It’s like a fun, carnival atmosphere,” Lucero adds. “They travel from everywhere to be here,” he says. “We’re just known as ‘the courts’ in the pickleball world — ‘we’re going to play at the courts,’ and everyone knows it’s the City of Surprise.” SDM