The Rise of Pickleball in Denver: A New Favorite Sport for Locals

The Fastest-Growing Sport in America

Pickleball has taken Colorado by storm, becoming the fastest-growing sport in America. Participation in pickleball nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022, with a three-year growth total of 158.6 percent. This unique mix of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong has captured the attention of both recreational players and professional athletes.

A Sport for All Ages and Skill Levels

One common misconception about pickleball is that it is a toned-down version of tennis for seniors. However, this stereotype couldn’t be further from the truth. Mainstream professional athletes, including tennis stars like Kim Clijsters and Nick Kyrgios, as well as household names from other sports like LeBron James, Kevin Love, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady, have embraced the sport. Pickleball is expanding its reach, with major league pickleball growing from 12 to 16 teams this year.

Affordability and Accessibility

One of the biggest advantages of pickleball is its affordability and accessibility. Unlike many other sports, you don’t need expensive equipment or memberships to play. According to Rachel Heise, the general manager of Game-Set-Match, a local racquet and paddle sports outfitter, all you need is a paddle, some balls, and somewhere to play. Pickleball can be enjoyed by anyone of any age, and while not everyone may become a professional pickleball player, they can still have fun and engage in a reasonably competitive game.

Gear Recommendations

When it comes to choosing your pickleball gear, there are a few key items to consider. Pickleball paddles range from inexpensive wooden paddles to high-quality graphite models. Game-Set-Match offers a variety of options, including their entry-level Launch paddle for $64 and premium paddles like the Head Gravity Tour and Tour Lite for intermediate players. Pickleballs also come in indoor and outdoor variations, with the former being larger and the latter smaller for faster play. As for shoes, while pickleball-specific shoes aren’t essential, it’s important to choose shoes with good lateral stability and a non-marking sole.

Where to Play in Denver

Denver offers several outdoor pickleball courts where locals can enjoy the game. Denver Parks and Recreation has four outdoor courts located at Northfield Athletic Complex, Martin Luther King Jr Park, Skyland Park, and Huston Lake Park. These courts are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Gates Tennis Center in Cherry Creek and Simms Street Recreation Center in Arvada also provide pickleball courts for rental.

Taking Your Game to the Next Level

If you’re looking to improve your pickleball skills or participate in leagues and tournaments, there are plenty of opportunities available. Denver Parks and Recreation offers pickleball classes and clinics for beginners and more advanced players. Gates Tennis Center, Simms Street Recreation Center, and Cornerstone Park host various clinics and tournaments throughout the summer. Additionally, there are pickleball bars like Pickleball Food Pub in Westminster that offer lessons, leagues, and a full bar for pickleball enthusiasts.

The Future of Pickleball in Denver

As pickleball continues to grow in popularity, new developments are on the horizon. National chain Chicken N Pickle is set to open a new location in Glendale in July, with plans for a Thornton outpost in 2024. 3rd Shot Pickleball will debut 13 indoor courts and a bar in Wheat Ridge later this year. Furthermore, Camp Pickle, a new eatertainment concept, has announced plans to open locations in Centennial in 2024 and Globeville in 2025.

In conclusion, pickleball has become a beloved sport in Denver due to its inclusive nature, affordability, and accessibility. Whether you’re a beginner looking for some fun or a seasoned player aiming to compete, pickleball offers something for everyone. So grab a paddle, find a court, and join the pickleball craze sweeping through Colorado.

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