Everyone in the sports facility construction industry knows pickleball is popular; however, with the inaugural US Open Pickleball Championships scheduled to begin on April 26 in Naples, Florida, it’s a good time to review the almost explosive growth of the pickleball industry:
- 1,000-plus: The number of athletes expected to participate in singles, doubles and mixed doubles play at the US Open
- 46: The number of pickleball courts in East Naples Community Park (ASBA member connection: the courts were built by Mor-Sports and surfaced in DecoTurf, with Har-Tru the supplier of other equipment; if other members were involved, ASBA would love to hear from you.)
- 1: Stadium court for finals matches
- 50 million: The estimated number of people who will see the finals when they are televised on CBS
- 2 million: Estimated number of players today
- 8 million: Estimated number of players by 2018
- 385% percent: Increase in numbers of places to play pickleball since 2010 (A place to play is defined as just that – a place to play. It can be anything from a gymnasium with pickleball lines to a facility designed specifically for pickleball)
- 912/76: Number of places to play added in 2015/the average per-month number of places to play that were added
- 64 percent: Increase in membership in the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) since 2010
Clearly, the sport is on the rise, and the upcoming championships will only fuel its continued growth. (In fact, Paddletek, which designed and manufactured the official pickleball paddle for the US Open, has noted supplies are selling out as quickly as they come in. Wilson, which is supplying the official ball, can expect a similar bounce.)
In a recent interview for Tennis Industry Magazine, builders from ASBA noted that interest in pickleball has increased. In some cases, existing facilities (tennis courts, playgrounds, etc.) are being lined for pickleball while in others, courts are being purpose-built for pickleball. Additionally, ASBA’s supplier members are becoming part of the pickleball industry, manufacturing and selling nets, lighting and more for courts.
Pickleball has moved out of retiree-centric communities and across the U.S., and its demographic is starting to skew younger, thanks to programs in gym classes in elementary, middle and high schools. However, the sport is still primarily popular among baby boomers (particularly former tennis players who still love court sports.)
To promote its sport at the grassroots level, USAPA has created a Pickleball Ambassador program. Pickleball Ambassadors are volunteers who work to promote the sport of pickleball and the USAPA in the local area they have applied to represent. They may be individuals or couples, or even a group of ambassadors working together as a team. The main prerequisite is a love of the sport and the desire to share our game with others of all ages. (Fun fact: Some full-time RV enthusiasts ers are Ambassadors ‘at large’ who promote our sport during their travels.) An explanation of the Ambassador program, and local contact information, can be found here. It should be noted that Ambassadors can be a good resource to those who are considering putting in pickleball courts.
ASBA will continue covering the growth of pickleball, as well as other sports that are gaining in popularity and presenting opportunities for its membership.