In a country increasingly obsessed with pickleball, Overland Park, Kansas, was recently proclaimed the most crazed for the ever-growing sport. April is now considered National Pickleball Month, a remarkable achievement for the tennis-pingpong-whiffle ball fusion originated more than 60 years ago.
While seniors caught onto the trend first, the phenomenon extends to all walks of life. Tom Brady, LeBron James, and Kevin Durant are just a few of the notable superstars taking a swing at the game.
For the third straight year, in 2023, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s Topline Participation Report named pickleball America’s fastest-growing sport. According to the study, participation nearly doubled in 2022, increasing by 85.7% year over year and by 158.6% over the past three years.
That’s just one measure cited by USA Pickleball noting this seemingly unstoppable trend.
- More than 71,000 individuals are members of the U.S. Pickleball Association. Statistics show about 1 in 6 Americans play the game.
- In 2022, USA Pickleball sanctioned 237 tournaments including the National Indoor Championships, the National Championships, and the first-ever Diamond Amateur Championship.
- There are 44,094 known courts, with more on the way (as detailed below).
- USA Pickleball Places2Play Database increased to 10,724 known locations in North America in 2022. Nearly 1,557 new locations were added to the database (130 new locations per month).
Not surprisingly, destinations are quickly trying to fill demand and showcase why their new venues are ones to watch. Here are a few noteworthy locations worth all the racket.
Butler County, Ohio
The Pickle Lodge in West Chester (just outside Cincinnati) will sport 17 indoor courts by July 2023—nine opened in March. The facility, located off Interstate 75, will be home to the Ohio Pickleball Academy and will target tournaments that bring visitors from outside Ohio.
Megan Charity, a world-ranked professional pickleball player, is one of the visionaries behind Rally. There will be four indoor and four outdoor courts at this entertainment complex that will also house bars and an on-site restaurant. Its grand opening is projected for June.
Pickle & Chill debuted its nine indoor courts last year. It came up aces when Major League Pickleball came to town last October. Twelve outdoor courts will open in June. There are also four event spaces for groups of up to 200.
Gulf Shores, Ala.
Twelve lighted outdoor courts opened in late 2022 at the Gulf Shores Sportsplex. With warm weather year-round, the destination is a natural hot spot for outdoor tournaments.
One of the world’s largest indoor pickleball venues is the centerpiece of a massive redevelopment of the Macon Mall. When completed, there will be 32 courts spread over two floors where Belk once stood. Tattnall Square Pickleball and Tennis Center also has 17 dedicated courts near the destination’s most popular restaurants.
The Courts, a public tennis facility located in Gabe Nesbitt Community Park and managed by Impact Activities, recently opened 12 more courts, so the facility now has 25 outdoor courts. This new outdoor court project will be followed by a new indoor project, which will add six courts over the next two years. In 2021 when few groups were coming together for meetings and events, the site hosted a 1,000 attendee/competitor pickleball tournament.
Bell Bank Park in this Phoenix suburb chimes in with a whopping 41 courts, including a stadium court with seating for 2,500. Four other courts have stands as well. Director of pickleball Ryan Trefry is an official USA Pickleball ambassador and an experienced event planner.
West Monroe, La.
Three multipurpose sites are selling themselves as the right match for players. The Sports & Events Center, slated to open this summer, is primarily a basketball and volleyball venue, but will host pickleball as well. The University of Louisiana at Monroe (ULM) Activity Center can easily be set up for badminton and pickleball. And the newly renovated Rec at Seventh Square offers a variety of programs, including pickleball.
Overland Park, Kan.
Whether this really is the most crazed place for pickleball may be up for debate, but there’s no denying the enthusiasm. The city—a very family-friendly suburb of both Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas, is home to more than 75 courts at more than 12 facilities. Chicken N Pickle (2021) and SERV (2023) are the newest additions, with both combining entertainment with sport. Visit Overland Park also has close to 30 courts that can be used for large events.
UPMC Passavant Sportsplex at Graham Park is adding six new courts by early summer, which will bring its total up to 19. The tennis courts are also easily adapted.
Riverside Park in Moline, Ill., is among the most enjoyed pickleball venues in the Midwest. Eight new lighted courts have recently been added and the tennis courts are taped for pickleball specifications. The Quad Cities Pickleball Classic in September has been one of the largest tournaments in the region for the past several years.
Wicomico County on the Eastern Shore is ready to get into the game. The Courts at Harmon Field, scheduled to open around Memorial Day, will feature 12 pickleball courts, two basketball courts, and a playground. Located near restaurants and Salisbury Zoo, the venue will be convenient for locals and visitors.
Photo Credit: Visit Overland Park, Visit Mesa