Tennis and pickleball have been experiencing tremendous growth over the last two years, in part due to pandemic restrictions that made it easier and safer to play individual sports than team sports.
According to Physical Activity Council research, in 2021, total U.S. tennis participation hit 22.6 million, up nearly 28 percent from two years earlier. Pickleball participation, over two years, jumped 39.3 percent to 4.8 million total participants. While the overall number of pickleball players isn’t yet near total tennis players, the shorter court sport has shown consistent growth every year for the past decade, and it looks like that will continue.
These areas are offering tennis and/or pickleball facilities that might be perfect for your next event.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
While several local high schools have smaller tennis facilities available, the major tennis venue in Ann Arbor is at the University of Michigan, which has eight indoor and 12 outdoor courts. The indoor facility has seating for 632 fans, and outdoors, there are seats for 600. Among major tournaments, U of M has hosted the ITA National Indoor Championships, the Wilson/ITA Midwest Regionals, the Big Ten Conference Championships for men and women, and wheelchair tennis tournaments.
Slated to open this spring in Ann Arbor will be a pickleball facility with 12 indoor courts, concessions, bar and food trucks. The Wolverine Pickleball Club has hosted several events over the last few years, averaging more than 150 competitors.
Visitors to the area will find plenty to do, including a large trail system for hiking and biking. Rolling Hills County Park has a popular water park, and there are numerous museums, including the Children’s Hands-On Museum and the U of M Museum of Natural History. Plus, the city has one of the best culinary scenes in the Midwest.
“Our goal is to help event owners in all areas, including identifying the right venues, marketing efforts, sponsorships, securing volunteers and hotel agreements,” says Mike Malach, executive director of the Ann Arbor Sports Commission. “The Ann Arbor Sports Commission is here to help make your event a complete success.”
The main facility for racquet/paddle sports in Boise is Hobble Creek Park, which has 12 dedicated pickleball courts and two tennis courts (which also are lined for four additional pickleball courts). The outdoor venue, with restrooms and plenty of parking, hosted the 2021 USA Pickleball Northwest Regional tournament. “We see this venue as one of the premier pickleball venues in the Northwest and actively work with local pickleball groups to bring tournaments to our area,” says Boise CVB Sports Sales Manager Lucas Gebhart.
The CVB is able to help out event owners and managers in many ways. “Some of our larger events work with a local PR firm we have,” Gebhart notes. “We’re also well connected with area attractions such as Roaring Springs, which is the largest waterpark in the Northwest, and a new TopGolf that is set to open soon. We can also help with marketing, securing discounts at local restaurants and shops and providing a wide range of promotional items.”
The CVB also can help arrange hotel room blocks. Currently, there are more than 6,000 hotel rooms in the area, but Gebhart says 10 new hotels are expected to open in the next few years, adding more than 1,100 rooms to that total.
Butler County, Ohio
“Butler County has witnessed the growth of pickleball firsthand with the success of our annual tournaments, including the USA Pickleball-sanctioned APP Cincinnati Open,” says Tracy Kocher, V.P. of marketing and communications for Travel Butler County. “We continue to work closely with the Middletown Pickleball Association to ensure our communities receive proper data so they can plan to accommodate the increased demand of pickleball. With these efforts, we hope to host many great pickleball events in the future.”
Lefferson Park, with 18 outdoor dedicated pickleball courts with lights, is the premier facility. It’s the venue for some large annual events such as the Middletown Pickleball Tournament, which completed its 15th year in August and drew more than 400 players, and for the last two years the APP Cincinnati Pickleball Open in May, which attracts more than 500 players each year.
Travel Butler County provides comprehensive planning assistance, Kocher says. TBC works with area attractions, restaurants and entertainment venues to pass along discounts. Additionally, TBC can help connect with local media outlets as well as tap into community volunteer pools.
Off-court, the attractions are numerous, including the “Donut Trail” (13 mom-and-pop donut shops), the 300-acre Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park & Museum, Topgolf, Main Event Entertainment, and EnterTRAINment Junction, the largest indoor train display in the world.
Columbia, South Carolina
Lexington County, South Carolina, has long been a hotbed of tennis, with two major facilities: the Cayce Tennis & Fitness Center and the Lexington County Tennis Complex. The Cayce facility has 30 lighted tennis courts. Its championship-size Stadium Court has a capacity of about 500 spectators. There are also four permanent and four temporary pickleball courts. The 11,000-square-foot clubhouse offers a great place to relax, and there’s also a 1,200-square-foot conference room, concessions and locker rooms.
The Lexington County Tennis Complex (LCTC) has 21 lighted tennis courts, also with a 500-spectator Stadium Court, and has eight permanent, lighted pickleball courts, along with concessions and locker rooms.
Both locations host numerous local, regional and national tournaments. LCTC recently hosted an ITF junior event that brought in about 200 players, and in April the Big East Conference Championships will return to Cayce, with about 150 players on 15 teams. In 2023 and 2024, both centers will be used to host the USTA National Mixed Doubles Championships, which brings in about 1,300 players over three days.
The Carolina Tennis Center in Columbia is home to the University of South Carolina men’s and women’s tennis teams and features 12 lighted courts, each with a scoreboard, along with two master scoreboards for each six-court bank. The center area accommodates seating for more than 700 fans.
“The community support here has always been great,” says Brian Clary, director of tennis and pickleball for Cayce and LCTC. “We work well with both the Lexington Area Tennis Association and the Columbia Tennis League.”
The unique Conway Tennis Center, which was completed in 2018, has eight lighted courts, indoor and outdoor visitor seating and a pro shop. The Conway Area Tennis Association has hosted a number of tournaments in 2022, with more than 450 participants. The largest event was the annual Conway Regional Health System Tennis Classic, which was voted the “Best Adult Tournament” in Arkansas and in the U.S. Tennis Association’s Southern Section.
“Since the completion of the Conway Tennis Center in April 2018, tennis in Conway has continued to grow,” says Conway CVB Executive Director Rachel Shaw. “The community has embraced the sport and the players who come to town for tennis events.”
Shaw says the Conway CVB can provide grant funding to support operations or advertising of events and can also help provide information for potential event sponsors. Off the court, downtown Conway is full of local boutiques, restaurants and antiques. The city also offers a trampoline park, laser tag facility, mini golf and a throwback arcade if the players (or siblings) need to burn off some extra energy.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
“The old adage, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ certainly applies to our efforts to help fund a new 12-court pickleball facility in Gulf Shores, slated to open in January,” says Michelle Russ, STS, vice president of sales, sports and events at Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events.
“Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the country, and we want to capitalize on that business. Our team is ready to assist pickleball planners, event rights holders and NGBs book tournaments, and working with us from start to finish is completely complimentary.” The new pickleball facility is being built at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex as a partnership between the city of Gulf Shores and Gulf Shores | Orange Beach Sports & Events.
Tennis-wise, the area is also heavy on tournament-ready facilities, including the George C. Meyer Tennis Center in Gulf Shores, with 12 hard and six soft courts, clubhouse, viewing area, restrooms and a pro shop, and the Orange Beach Tennis Center, with eight lighted courts, pro shop, restrooms and outdoor seating. For the last few years, the area has hosted the Alabama State Tri-Level Championships, in conjunction with the USTA. Planned for 2023 is the Alabama Tennis Invitational, scheduled for April, and the State Tri-Level Championships in September.
Off the court, there is plenty to do, from simply relaxing on the beach or exploring the nine distinct ecosystems in Gulf State Park to deep sea fishing or setting sail on a dolphin cruise. Other popular activities include kayaking, paddleboarding, golfing, glassblowing and shopping.
In Loudoun County, there are a number of tennis courts at local high schools, park & recs and clubs, but expect the county to become a racquet and paddle sports powerhouse in coming years, says Torye Hurst, director of sales-sports and client services for Visit Loudoun. That’s because the USTA Mid-Atlantic Section, which encompasses Virginia, Maryland and most of West Virginia, unveiled a plan last spring to build a world-class tennis campus in Loudoun County.
The planned facility will have 20 outdoor tennis courts, 16 indoor tennis courts, and eight pickleball courts. The Mid-Atlantic Section expects the new campus to draw local, regional and national-level tennis events, in addition to featuring daily tennis programming. Right now, the anticipated opening is in 2025.
“This will be a game-changer for us,” Hurst says. “It will allow us to not only meet the local usage need, but also will allow us to host a lot of tournaments. There will be so many things we can go after; it really opens things up for us—not just for tennis, but for pickleball, too, which has exploded here in the last few years.”
The Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex, a USTA Facility of the Year award recipient, is comprised of 25 lighted courts, including two Championship Courts, perfect for hosting recreational tournaments, professional events and everything in between. The Grand Slam Patio offers one of the best settings for dinners or hospitality with views of the entire Tennis Complex. Other amenities include a player’s lounge/tournament area and locker rooms with shower facilities.
Among the major events that have come to the tennis complex is the annual USTA League National Championships, which last year saw nearly 2,500 athletes and 236 teams, along with nearly 2,000 spectators from outside Arizona. The complex also hosted the 2021 NCAA Division II men’s and women’s regional and national championships, and has been selected to host the event again in 2025.
“Our team works with our partners in USTA and NCAA to continue to offer our players positive and safe events,” says Manager Guillermo “Bill” Lucero. “We look at ways to enhance the overall experience by introducing new formats of play that offer a fresh perspective on the traditional tennis tournament.”
Nearby is the City of Surprise Pickleball Complex, a state-of-the-art, 16-court facility with LED lighting, which is the home of many tournaments sanctioned by USA Pickleball. One of the largest events is the USAP West Regional tournament, which includes 1,200 players over seven days of play and qualifies players for the National Championships. Each year, the facility hosts the Surprise Pickleball Association’s Monster Smash and the Tommy Wong Memorial Pickleball Tournament, which each see about 700 participants. SDM