Pickleball, the sport with the funny name, has been popular for a long time fastest growing sport in the US according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association for the past two years. It is now the official sport of Washington State, where the game was invented. What started out as a summertime treat takes the reins of a multifaceted commercial venture.
pickle ball Origin story dates back to 1965, when three dads on Bainbridge Island, Washington, invented a new racket sport to keep their teens busy. They combined the equipment they had on hand: a wiffle ball, ping pong bats and a lowered badminton net. Decades later, it has evolved into a sport for two in a Competition competition tours, Network TV Coverage and enough money-making opportunities to support hundreds of professionals.
Interest in the sport is such that top player Tyson McGuffin, 32, of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, can capitalize on his success a personal brandappearing on a clothing line, a series of training camps, a podcast, a $75 insulated water bottle and—of course—a Signature Paddle made by gear sponsor Selkirk.
Tracie Dejager, a mom in Lake Oswego, Oregon, said she made the transition from working in real estate to a career as a pickleball pro.
“I’ve always had the idea, do what you love and the money will come,” Dejager said.
Now she can. The money comes from tournament winnings and an equipment sponsorship. The demand for lessons, training camps and instructional videos is high.
“It’s grown really drastically in the last few years,” Dejager said courtside after teaching a Portland-area clinic for advanced advanced players.
“If we want to get involved and make a living from it, now is the right time because it’s amazing how many people are playing pickleball now,” Dejager said. “Ten years ago, even five years ago, I could say, ‘I play pickleball.’ [and the response was] ‘You do what?'”
Dejager teaches at a brand new indoor pickleball center in the suburb of Clackamas, outside of Portland. It is with the name REKS – short for Recreate, Exercise, Compete, Socialize. The nine rubber-padded pickleball courts replaced an indoor soccer shop.
“Football players are people, children or adults, who work during the day. Pickleball has a lot of active retirees who want to play during the day,” said Kevin Richards, co-owner and manager of RECS. “It changes the business model if you don’t just work nights and weekends. Now you may be busy 16 hours a day.”
Richards said people of all ages have taken up pickleball during the pandemic.
“Because you’re physically distant from other people you play with and you can play outside,” Richards explained. “A lot of people who have started coming here and discovering this place have said, ‘I started playing during the COVID times, and I can’t get enough.'”
Companies like Richards’ are popping up across the country. A startup called Total entertainment aims to capitalize on the “eatertainment” concept with a combination of indoor pickleball courts and sports bars. It begins with stores in Bellingham and Marysville, Wash., and in suburban Fort Worth, Texas, slated to open later this year.
Pickleball has matured enough to justify having a shrine to its luminaries. A Pickleball Hall of Fame is slated to open in Texas next year on the grounds of the Austin Pickle Ranchanother private club under construction with 33 seats (about half of which are covered), a music stage and beach volleyball courts.
pickle ball Inducted into the Hall of Fame Steve Paranto said he was very excited to see Gov. Jay Inslee sign legislation on March 28 declaring pickleball the state’s official sport.
“It makes perfect sense, the sport was invented there,” Paranto said. “But if you’d said that to me in 1974… oh, pshaw. We only play 40 and we know how great it is, but everyone else thinks we’re crazy for being addicted to this little game.”
Paranto, who grew up playing with the game’s founders in the Seattle area, has been inducted into the Hall of Fame for his nearly 50-year contributions to the sport. Among other things, he helped his father in the invention of the first composite paddle 1984 using surplus material from the Boeing jet assembly line.
There’s a lot happening in the world. For everything, Marketplace is there for you.
They rely on Marketplace to break down world events and tell you how they affect you in a fact-based and accessible way. In order to continue to make this possible, we depend on your financial support.
Your donation today supports the independent journalism you rely on. For just $5/month you can help keep Marketplace alive so we can keep reporting on the things you care about.