Published April 17, 2016 - www.coastalbreezenews.com
The U.S. Open Pickleball Championships was founded by racquet sport professionals and life long athletes, Terri Graham and Chris Evon. Graham and Evon spent over two decades working for Wilson Sporting Goods in Chicago, where Graham was the Business Director for indoor racquet sports and spearheaded racquetball, squash, badminton, platform tennis and most recently, you guessed it, pickleball!
The two recognized the time was right for a world-class international pickleball event and in 2014 they started Spirit Promotions, LLC to organize the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships. To their delight, these Marco Island part time residents needed to look no further than neighboring Naples for the perfect venue. In January 2015 Collier County CVB signed on for a three-year commitment to host the tournament.
Donna Fiala, Collier County Commissioner says, “East Naples is the fastest growing community in Collier County. Hosting the fastest growing sport in America seemed like the perfect fit! We are committed to investing into this event and into the park to make it the best place for people to play! Kids, parents and grandparents are learning the game. It’s great for families and great for the community. We look forward to being a part of this event for many years to come.”
Graham and Evon teamed up with the local USA Pickleball Association District Ambassador, Jim Ludwig, and the three set to work in early 2015 to organize a world class sporting event. Ludwig is equally passionate about pickleball and founded the nonprofit “Pickleball for All” to introduce the sport to every school in Collier County and beyond. “The U.S. Open Pickleball Championships has opened doors to not only help us grow this charity, but to help us make Naples the pickleball mecca of the world!” says Ludwig.
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