With a generous donation from the Rotary Club of Austin County and the Main Foundation, Pickleball is coming to Sealy! Construction began on June 20th at B & PW Park, converting the old tennis courts into eight pickleball courts. With an estimated completion date of July 1st, we will have it ready by The 4th of July Weekend!
What is Pickleball?
Pickleball is a sport played on a badminton-size court with a net set to a height of 34 inches at the center. It is played with a perforated plastic ball and composite or wooden paddles about twice the size of ping-pong paddles. In summary, it is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong.
Pickleball was invented in 1965 on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, by three enterprising dads – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum. Their children were bored with their usual summertime activities. It evolved from the original handmade equipment and simple rules into a popular sport throughout North America and is now taking off in other parts of the world.
The origin of the game’s name is very interesting, especially since no pickles are used. Accounts of how the name originated differ. According to Joel Pritchard’s wife (Joan), she started calling the game pickleball because “The combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.” However, according to Barney McCallum, the game was officially named after the Pritchards’ dog Pickles who would chase the ball and run off with it. According to McCallum, “The Pritchards had a dog named Pickles, and you’re having fun at a party, right? So anyways, what the heck, let’s just call it pickleball.”
The Gold Rush
There are a few reasons why we are in a Pickleball Gold Rush. The first is the low barrier of entry. A player simply needs a paddle, ball, and net to begin playing. Since a court is smaller than a tennis court, it allows more individuals with disabilities to play the game. It is now the fastest growing sport in the United States after a Pickleball explosion during the pandemic. While Badminton and Ping Pong are both showing a decrease in players, Pickleball is growing at 11.5% each year in the number of players. Tennis is only growing at 4.2% each year. Due to this, we are seeing the Wild West of investing with several sports celebrities and corporations investing in teams and sponsorships. More companies, such as Nick and Adidas are getting into the market as well; when in the past, there was only one Pickleball equipment company in the US for decades. By 2030, Pickleball is projected to have more players than any other sport by double. In order to meet the need to accommodate 40 million players, the US will need 340,000 additional courts in the next 7 years. Currently, Pickleball is played in 70 countries world-wide. For it to be an Olympic sport, it must be played in 75 countries. It is expected to be added as an Olympic sport by the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Pickleball had always been known as a sport for retirees; however, the demographics have changed drastically. The majority of Pickleball players are under the age of 35 and the largest growth is seen in players under the age of 25. This is now an intergenerational sport as those in their 20’s can easily play with those in their 60’s. Even though analyst estimate 4.8 million players today, others estimate it at 8 million players based on the number of Pickleball Google searches and the Pickleball equipment sales in the U.S. The market opportunity is tremendous as 45.1% of Pickleball players earn over $100,000 per year. They are the ones traveling to tournaments and events around the country, staying an average of 5 to 7 days.
Kalamazoo, MI got into the Pickleball gold rush a few years ago and now host 40 sporting tournaments each year. As a result of these tournaments, they are reporting $15.4 million in visitor spending per year. In surveys and interviews, players state they spend an average of $300 per day while at the tournaments and bring five other people with them.
To help us get into this market, the USA Pickleball Association has an Ambassador Program where 2,000 volunteers have pledged to promote both the sport of Pickleball and USA Pickleball in local areas. Ambassador’s support and abide by all official rules, assist with local clinics/tournaments, and look for opportunities to add/grow the game in their community.
USA Pickleball Recreational Programs and Services Department has developed free downloadable resources for youth program providers nationwide to help with programs conducted in schools, parks, youth centers and pickleball facilities. A Campus Pickleball Guide has been created to help grow pickleball for middle schools and high schools. Additionally, a Fun Play Formats and Events resource has been developed to support programs for all ages offered in parks, HOA’s, retirement communities and pickleball facilities.
The Youth Program Provider Membership is to support physical education teachers, youth program leaders, coaches, and recreation professionals with training and program resources to introduce pickleball to youth.
The Pickleball Association has grant programs to assist new players get into the sport. The Community Grant Program offers a $250 reimbursement to new USAPA members that are getting into the sport. Through the High School Grant Program, USAPA members are reimbursed $350 for start-up equipment for regular high school physical education classes and after-school programs.
Currently, our area residents who play Pickleball need to drive to other communities to find courts. Before or after they play, they eat out, get something to drink, and spend money in those towns. The addition of Pickleball courts in Sealy keeps those dollars here. For the kids who currently play, or want to learn, they will have easy access to courts they can walk or bike to on a nice day. It also adds another activity in our community for people of all ages who want a variety of choices when it comes to sports and exercise. We welcome this new addition to the park and look forward to everyone enjoying it!