The Rise of Pickleball in Denver

The Fastest-Growing Sport in America

Pickleball, the hybrid sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong, has been gaining popularity across the United States. In Colorado, specifically in Denver, pickleball has become a favorite pastime for locals. The sport’s participation has nearly doubled from 2021 to 2022, with a three-year growth total of 158.6 percent.

Pickleball’s Popularity During the Pandemic

Pickleball’s rise in popularity was not solely due to the pandemic, but it certainly played a significant role. As an outdoor and inherently distanced sport, pickleball became a go-to activity for many during the pandemic. According to a survey conducted by game-set-match, a local racquet and paddle sports outfitter, half of the nearly 300 respondents said they played pickleball. Additionally, 58.5 percent of respondents expressed their intention to continue playing this year. Pickleball transitioned from a recreational “beer sport” to a serious competitive game, with a U.S Open dedicated to the sport.

Busting Stereotypes

Pickleball is often perceived as a toned-down version of tennis for seniors who can no longer play with a racquet. However, this stereotype no longer holds true. 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, have invested in major league pickleball. The sport is expanding, with the number of teams increasing from 12 to 16 this year.

Accessible and Affordable

One of the appeals of pickleball is its affordability and accessibility. To play, one only needs a paddle, some balls, and a place to play. The sport is easy to learn, making it suitable for people of all ages. While not everyone may aspire to go on the pro pickleball tour, they can still have fun and engage in reasonably competitive games. Pickleball offers an enjoyable and inclusive experience for all participants.

Gear and Equipment

To play pickleball, specific gear and equipment are required. Pickleball paddles come in various models and price ranges. From inexpensive wooden paddles to expensive graphite paddles, players have options based on their budget and preferences. Pickleballs also come in different variations for indoor and outdoor play. Indoor pickleballs are larger and slower, while outdoor pickleballs are smaller and faster. Finding the right gear can enhance the playing experience and performance.

Where to Play Pickleball in Denver

Denver offers several outdoor pickleball court locations within the city limits. Denver Parks and Recreation provides four outdoor courts at various parks, which are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. The department also has indoor pickleball courts in recreational centers across town. However, due to noise and parking complaints, some popular pickleball locations, such as Congress Park, have temporarily restricted play. Plans for more courts at Sloan’s Lake Park and Rosamond Park are also on hold as officials strive to balance feedback from residents and noise ordinance restrictions with the growing demand for pickleball.

Learning Opportunities and Competitions

For those interested in learning pickleball or improving their skills, Denver Parks and Recreation, Gates Tennis Center, Apex’s Simms Street Recreation Center, and South Suburban Parks and Recreation’s Cornerstone Park offer various clinics, classes, and workshops. These learning opportunities cater to both beginners and advanced players. Additionally, competitive players can join leagues, tournaments, and doubles events to test their skills against other locals.

Pickleball Bars and Eatertainment

In recent years, a unique trend has emerged with the introduction of pickleball bars and “eatertainment” venues. eateries have integrated pickleball into their establishments, offering players the chance to enjoy the sport while grabbing a bite or a drink. Pickleball Food Pub in Westminster and Chicken N Pickle, a national chain opening a location in Glendale, provide indoor courts and full bars for pickleball enthusiasts. These venues also organize leagues, parties, and events within a vibrant and social atmosphere.

Pickleball’s Promising Future in Denver

As pickleball continues to grow in popularity, more opportunities for play and competition are expected to arise in Denver. With new indoor court facilities on the horizon, such as the planned 3rd Shot Pickleball in Wheat Ridge and Camp Pickle locations in Centennial and Globeville, pickleball enthusiasts will have even more options to pursue their passion. Denver’s pickleball community is vibrant, inclusive, and a testament to the sport’s rapid rise in America.

Conclusion

Pickleball’s surge in popularity in Denver is a testament to its appeal and accessibility. The sport’s growth during the pandemic showcased its outdoor, socially distanced nature, attracting players of all ages and skill levels. As more people discover the joys of pickleball, it is expected to continue thriving as a beloved local activity in Colorado. Whether it’s playing at outdoor courts, joining leagues and tournaments, or exploring the emerging pickleball bars and eatertainment venues, there are numerous ways for Denver residents to embrace this exciting sport.

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