April is National Pickleball Month, and more than 36 million players are celebrating one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S.
Even seven-time Super Bowl champion Tom Brady has joined the pickleball craze as part owner of a Major League Pickleball expansion team.
This year, pickleball was named “America’s fastest growing sport for the third year in a row” by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s (SFIA) Topline Participation Report. According to the report, pickleball participation nearly doubled in 2022, increasing by 85.7% year-over-year and 158.6% in the past three years.
In March, the City of Valdosta and the Valdosta-Lowndes County Parks & Recreation Authority (VLPRA) started constructing 12 pickleball courts at McKey Park. The much-anticipated project, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year, is a City of Valdosta SPLOST project.
While the sport has experienced tremendous growth in the past decade, pickleball has been around for nearly 60 years. It started in 1965 when three fathers in Bainbridge Island, Washington, created the game on a backyard badminton court to entertain their kids.
In 1967, the fathers constructed the first permanent pickleball court. Nearly 20 years later, the United States Amateur Pickleball Association was formed, and by 1990, pickleball was played in all 50 states.
“Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country and we are excited to provide these courts for our local pickleball community,” said Valdosta Mayor Scott James Matheson. “This center will improve our area’s quality of life while also boosting our local economy by being a destination for pickleball tournaments; a complete win-win.”
VLPRA has been working on pickleball court concepts for a few years. Chairwoman Suzan Garnett says McKey Park is ideal for this addition.
“Having the pickleball courts right next to the tennis center creates a full racket park that becomes a draw for people of all ages,” Garnett said. “There’s no age limit for pickleball, it doesn’t require much equipment, and the courts will be free for public use. This area will be a one-stop shop for families with racket sports, a playground, and beautiful outdoor space. We’re thrilled with the opportunities here for all of our residents.”