Pickleball continues to ascend the ranks among its racquetball relatives in tennis, badminton, and table tennis; however, this rise in popularity hasn’t come without some pushback. Many die-hard tennis players are now fighting to keep their courts from being flooded by the new wave of pickleball players.
According to a recent study by The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), more than 4.8 million pickleball players are now in the United States. This represents a remarkable 39.3% growth in the last two years, making pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America.
Out with the old, in with the new
One of Cincinnati’s largest tennis facilities, Sawyer Point Tennis Courts, was completely transformed to give pickleball players most of the park’s court space. What used to be exclusively tennis courts is now 18 pickleball courts, with only three supplementary tennis courts intended to be converted into pickleball courts when necessary.
The $500,000 project was funded by the club president of Pickleball at Sawyer Point, Gary Lessis, who saw an opportunity in the infrequently utilized tennis courts. The Pickleball at Sawyer Point’s Facebook group now has over 3,000 members. It appears that Cincinnati’s pickleball community will only continue to grow when the pickleball courts reopen in March of 2023.
This singular example of how pickleball is changing the landscape of racquetball sports in Cincinnati displays exactly what is happening to cities across the United States.
A Shared Future of Both Paddles and Racquets
Tennis court facilities are shrinking to make way for pickleball, and with so many brand-new pickleball venues popping up across the nation, it’s hard for tennis players not to feel slighted. The world’s growing obsession with pickleball is spreading through news and social media like wildfire, creating a sense of tension in the minds of avid tennis fans.
However, tennis is growing at a similar rate to pickleball. According to the United States Physical Activity Council’s (PAC) Participation Report, over 22.6 million players hit the tennis court in 2021, a 27.9% increase from 2019.
While this growth can be interpreted as a positive sign for the future of tennis, it also confirms the necessity for shared racquetball sports facilities and the development of mutual respect between tennis and pickleball players. As both sports continue to grow, player populations must come together and find solutions for the many cases of court shortages.
Looking forward, 2023 will likely be an even bigger year of growth for both pickleball and tennis. Whether it unites or further divides the fanbases is up to the players, facilities, and community leaders.
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