Thursday, November 19, 2015

Inaugural US Open Pickleball Championships Coming to Naples, Florida

Published November 28, 2015 -

And Pickelball is Arriving Everywhere Else, So Event Planners Better Be Ready

Some sports just suddenly seem to harness the enthusiasm of the public. Rock climbing was one. Mud races were another.

Now, the buzz is all about pickleball. And it’s not letting up, so event planners should brace themselves.

The paddle sport with the funny name, the one that is growing at a faster pace than any other, is holding its inaugural national championship. The first-ever US OPEN Pickleball Championships will take place in Naples, Florida, April 26-May 1, 2016. And the only two words for the sports business industry are this: Get ready.

"It was incredible,” said Terri Lewis, whose company, Spirit Promotions, is producing the U.S Open. “Before we even opened our registration portal, we had more than 600 people expressing interest, in one week.” It’s going to behoove sports planners to acquaint themselves with pickleball. Those who aren't familiar with the sport can learn about it easily. It is played like a racquet sport: on a court the same size as a badminton court, with a lower net, special regulation pickleball paddles and a ball similar to a whiffle ball. It is played in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. A winning score is 11 and a player needs to win by at least two points.

The sport is way easier to learn than it sounds, and way more fun to play than most first-timers can imagine. And for both those reasons, it’s growing explosively.

Pickleball is a sport filled with what might jokingly be called evangelists. Graham says the sport’s accessibility is part of its charm, and its main selling point.

"You can walk up to any place in the country where pickleball is being played. You can show up without a paddle, without a ball, without any equipment and I guarantee you someone is going to come over and hand you a paddle and say, ‘Here, come on and try this.’ And you’ll get hooked.”

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