The forthcoming 2024 Biofreeze USA Pickleball National Championships are set to be held in Arizona, something that Mike Burke, the president of Arizona Athletic Grounds in Mesa, is understandably thrilled about. The event, scheduled from November 10 to 14, will showcase the full range of facilities on offer at the impressive venue.
As he says, he is “Incredibly excited,”. He adds “The bar is high. It’s going to be a phenomenal event. We’re going to host a lot of people. It’s exactly the type of event I want to host here — big, high profile, extraordinarily well-run, great partnership with the host organization.
“I’m looking for more immersive, experiential events going forward, and this one is going to check those boxes.”
Arizona Athletic Grounds opened in January 2022 and boasts an impressive array of 41 pickleball courts, including a covered championship court with a seating capacity of 2,000 spectators. This sprawling 300-acre complex is not solely dedicated to pickleball but also caters to various other sports, such as baseball, basketball, gaming, indoor soccer, softball, and volleyball.
Burke also describes the existing amenities and ongoing enhancements at the facility: “We’ve got exceptional facilities, and I’m making dramatic improvements daily ranging from improved food and beverage, better access to bathrooms, cool ancillary areas like our high-performance training center where visitors and athletes can hang out between matches and events.
“It’s more than just the pickleball courts. This is a full experience park.”
“A Lot Of Positive Feedback”
In addition to hosting pickleball, the facility is gearing up for other high-profile events, including cornhole, jiujitsu, wrestling, and Brick Fest Live, a renowned Lego event. However, Burke noted that being selected to host the USA Pickleball National Championships has generated a unique buzz within the community and the facility itself.
“We’re getting a lot of positive feedback about hosting this exciting event in November,” he told Stephen Hunt, a freelance contributor to USA Pickleball. “There’s natural traction that drives, natural momentum that drives, and our pickleball business is going to be on the map (once they hold the Pickleball Nationals). We’re going to host more high-profile events. We’re very excited about that.”
Looking ahead, Burke was eager to talk about a growing partnership between Arizona Athletic Grounds and USA Pickleball:
“We’ve had some larger events and think a total athlete count of maybe 500 to 1,000,” he said. “We have a USA Pickleball Golden Ticket tournament that we’re hosting in a few months. I think the athlete count there is expected to be around 1,200, maybe a little bit more. Those events are exceptionally important.
He obviously also has a keen eye on the National Championships happening in November:
“We’re focused on running those as well as we possibly can, listening to visitors [and] athletes – making improvements daily. It all gears us towards the Pickleball Nationals, which will be the largest pickleball event we’ve hosted and, of course, the largest in the nation.”
“And honestly, with the partnership approach that we’re taking with USA Pickleball, there’s a live feedback loop to make sure that Pickleball Nationals is run as well as it possibly can be,” he added, “but the preparation starts now.”
Parking Logistics Can Be A Challenge
One of Burke’s main areas of focus is acting upon the feedback from previous events to ensure future events run more smoothly, especially with drivers getting onto and off the premises:
“I’m aware of some of the challenges and opportunities that came out of last year’s National Championship,” he says. “Parking is at the top of the list to ensure that’s run as smoothly as possible. We have a lot of on-site parking, but there’s room for improvement. What we heard is that parking is pretty good, but there’s room for improvement.
“I’m focused on ingress, egress, parking, and shuttles. I think about those topics and work on those almost every single day. By the time Pickleball Nationals roll around, we will have made noticeable improvements to the parking infrastructure in place.
“We’re in live dialogue with third parties that are helping us work through that. We’re also planning on an exceptional shuttle service in conjunction with USA Pickleball.”
“I Love It!”
On a personal note, Burke admitted that although he hadn’t tried pickleball yet, he was looking forward to giving it a go:
“I love it! It’s the fastest-growing sport in the nation. We have an incredible facility here. I’m thrilled to be able to take on this amazing opportunity,” he said.
“At the same time, I’m excited to start playing. I haven’t played pickleball before, but I’ve been invited to go out and play on the courts, so I’m excited to get out there myself. I’ve been an athlete my whole life. It’s just my type of sport.”
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