Pickleball: The Fastest-Growing Sport in America

A Sport for All Ages: Pickleball’s Rising Popularity

Pickleball, the hybrid sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong, has been steadily gaining popularity across America in recent years. In fact, participation in pickleball nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022, with a total growth of 158.6 percent over the past three years. Denver is no exception to this trend, as locals are embracing pickleball as their new favorite sport.

According to Rachel Heise, the general manager of Game-Set-Match, a local racquet and paddle sports outfitter, pickleball was already on the rise before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, its popularity exploded during the pandemic due to its outdoor nature, inherent social distancing, and low-barrier-to-entry. In a survey conducted by Game-Set-Match, half of the nearly 300 respondents stated that they played pickleball, and 58.5 percent intend to play this year.

Once considered a recreational “beer sport,” pickleball has now grown into a serious and competitive sport. It has attracted mainstream professional athletes from various sports, including tennis stars like Kim Clijsters and Nick Kyrgios, as well as household names like LeBron James, Kevin Love, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady. These athletes have invested in major league pickleball, which is expanding from 12 to 16 teams this year.

Accessible and Affordable

One of the major advantages of pickleball is its accessibility and affordability. To play pickleball, all you need is a paddle, some balls, and a place to play. According to Heise, the cost of entry is relatively low compared to other sports. The rules of pickleball can be reviewed on USA Pickleball’s website, making it easy for anyone of any age to pick up and enjoy a reasonably competitive game.

When it comes to equipment, pickleball paddles range from inexpensive wooden paddles to powerful graphite models. Game-Set-Match offers a variety of paddles to suit different skill levels and preferences. For beginners, an entry-level paddle like PCKL’s Launch Paddle is available for $64. Intermediate players may consider paddles like the Head Gravity Tour and Tour Lite, which have massive sweet spots. Advanced players can explore paddles like Joola’s Ben Johns Hyperion or the new Perseus model, which offer increased power and precision.

In terms of pickleballs, there are indoor and outdoor variations. Indoor pickleballs are larger to slow them down, while outdoor pickleballs are smaller and move faster. Game-Set-Match sells a variety of pickleballs, and they will match any competitor’s price. Supporting local businesses is always a great option.

Where to Play Pickleball

For pickleball enthusiasts in Denver, there are several outdoor and indoor courts available throughout the city. Denver Parks and Recreation maintains four outdoor courts at various locations, including Northfield Athletic Complex, Martin Luther King Jr. Park, Skyland Park, and Huston Lake Park.

Cherry Creek’s Gates Tennis Center also offers ten pickleball courts that can be rented for a nominal fee. The facility hosts open play sessions every day of the week, providing an opportunity for locals to test their skills against other players.

Arvada’s Simms Street Recreation Center is another popular pickleball destination, boasting 24 outdoor courts. During the summer months, the facility offers free play from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays, with paid court reservations available for a more guaranteed spot.

Littleton’s Cornerstone Park provides six courts with year-round push-button-operated lighting, ideal for evening play. Court reservations can be made online at varying prices based on residency and time of play.

Expanding Opportunities

For those looking to learn or improve their pickleball skills, Denver Parks and Recreation offers various classes and clinics. The Gates Tennis Center, Apex’s Simms Street Recreation Center, and South Suburban Parks and Recreation’s Cornerstone Park all host clinics and workshops throughout the summer.

For more competitive play, Gates Tennis Center launched a co-ed pickleball doubles league, while Simms Street Recreation Center hosts an annual Apex Foundation Memorial Day pickleball tournament with a wide range of categories.

Innovative entrepreneurs have also recognized the growing demand for pickleball. Pickleball-themed eateries like Pickleball Food Pub in Westminster have opened their doors, providing indoor courts and a full bar. National chain Chicken N Pickle has plans to open new locations, including one in Glendale, offering even more opportunities for pickleball enthusiasts to enjoy the sport in a unique setting.

Pickleball’s rise in popularity is a testament to its accessibility, affordability, and appeal to people of all ages. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or someone looking for a fun and competitive game, pickleball offers a versatile and enjoyable experience. So grab a paddle, find a court, and join the dinking, smashing, and drop-shotting hordes for a game of pickleball. It might just become your new favorite sport.

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