The new indoor pickleball courts at Macon Mall in Macon, Georgia, that we reported on recently were busy this weekend hosting the Candy Cane Classic Tournament.
This tournament marked the facility’s tournament debut and attracted attention from various regions.
Macon’s Largest Event
Paul Midkiff, a co-founder of Southern Pickleball, had anticipated a turnout of more than 650 participants from across 12 states, making it the largest event hosted in Macon to date.
The economic forecast was promising, with Visit Macon estimating an influx of approximately $350,000.
Participants registered for the tournament for a fee of $60, with additional opportunities available at an extra price. The action took place on Saturday and Sunday, with players guaranteed a minimum of three matches.
The timing of the tournament was strategically significant for Macon, as business is traditionally quiet during the winter months.
“In the hospitality industry, we go through our slow seasons. Since summer ended, it’s slowed down a lot,” Sleep Inn General Manager Christina Walker said.
Walker highlighted that their clientele is predominantly local contractors, but with pickleball weekends serving as a regular way to keep the hotel “booked and busy.”
“Weekends we have pickleball is usually when pickings start getting slim,” Walker explained.
Boosting The Economy
The Sleep Inn has partnered with the Southern Pickleball Association for the past year, including for the tournament weekend. The group says it could be the biggest pickleball tournament held in Georgia ever.
“We offer them a special rate. 10% off of our bar rate. A lot of times, we do sell out. The fact that they’ve built that new amphitheater over there, it’s gonna bring a lot more businesses, a lot more events.
“It’s just gonna help boost the economy that Macon so desperately needs,” Walker said.
“Twelve Different States”
The partnership between Sleep Inn and the Southern Pickleball Association has been instrumental in accommodating players, offering them discounted rates. Walker emphasized the demand during such events, often resulting in full occupancy.
Although the tournament was expected to attract 650 participants, Paul Midkiff, the Co-Founder of Southern Pickleball, suggested the total influx could be anything up to 2,000.
“Last time I looked, we had players coming from over 12 different states,” he said.
Midkiff, who’s lived in Macon his whole life, says he’s seen the mall area transform with the introduction of the new Rhythm and Rally Sports and Events pickleball facility.
“To see this old Belk store, which I think has been vacant for 15 years and it’s about to be slammed on a regular basis,” he said.
“Epicenter Of Pickleball”
Midkiff also talked about how the visitors can benefit the town’s economy: “After they go play pickleball, hopefully, we’ll send them downtown.
“Check out the Christmas lights, and get something to eat. I think a lot of Air BnBs have been taken up. We’ve got a lot of hotel space,” Midkiff said. “The words just getting out that Macon is the epicenter of pickleball for the southeast.”
Visit Macon highlighted the financial impact of sports tournaments on the area, estimating an annual $14 million boost to the economy.
The significance of pickleball tournaments, typically attracting 300 to 500 players and generating $150,000 in business, was underscored by their role in enhancing Macon’s economy.
A Strong Pickleball Community
Mayor Lester Miller spoke enthusiastically about Macon’s inclusive pickleball community and anticipated both local and regional participation in upcoming tournaments:
“We have a strong pickleball community here in Macon, one that is welcoming of all people, whether they are local and wanting to learn how to play or are visiting here for a tournament,” said Mayor Lester Miller.
“I’m excited for people locally and from all over the southeast to compete here this next month and to fully open to the public in the next few weeks.”
The momentum is set to continue with two more pickleball tournaments scheduled for January, as indicated on the Southern Pickleball Team League’s website. A two-day event will be held on January 20th and 21st at the Macon Indoor Pickleball Center.
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