Column: Why Prescott and surrounding areas should invest in Pickleball

Are you wondering why Prescott should build public Pickleball Courts? Let me give you just a few statics. In 2011 I estimated there were about 200 players in the quad city area. There was one public facility and four courts located in private Homeowner’s Associations. Today there are approximately 2,500 players with two public facilities: The YMCA and Willow Hills Baptist Church, both being indoor courts. In addition, there are at least four privately owned backyard courts, and approximately ten Homeowner Association courts (private).

On the national level in 2011 there were about 900 locations to play. Today, according to the USAPA, there are 4,000 courts nation-wide and 400,000 players. Yet the retail sports industry figures estimate over 2.5 million paddles have been sold. And this does not include the recent introduction of the game in Europe and Asia.

Needless to say, Pickleball is a fast growing, extremely popular, sport. What drives people to the sport with or without sports backgrounds is the simplicity of learning the whole game within an hour. Then, the unique rules of the game create a focus on control, strategy and finesse rather than power. The other incentive is that it is a multi generational game where people as young as ten and perhaps younger can play with people up to even 90! In the Prescott area we have two young national bronze medal winners who have played with a variety of older players. And we have a man and a woman who are 87 and 90 playing the game recreationally.

Back to Prescott and surrounding communities. Baby boomers, who are retiring at the rate of 10,000 a day, contribute greatly to the driving momentum of the sport. Currently there are trade industry magazines that indicate Prescott and the area is the third most popular place to retire in the United States. In the Phoenix area it has been demonstrated over and over if you build Pickleball courts they will come not only as a point of destination to live, but will come as tourists and to play in tournaments. The data from the USAPA estimates that players and tourists spend anywhere from $185 to $230 per day when they stay in an area. Our even climate in the spring, summer and fall. and adequate Pickelball courts, would be a large draw for those players and fans to come to Prescott.

Many options have been considered as avenues to provide those courts in Prescott. I totally agree with tennis professional coach and Courier columnist Chris Howard to let Pickleball be Pickleball and Tennis be Tennis. Sharing tennis courts or converting tennis courts over to Pickleball creates more problems than solutions. Consequently, a few months ago the Prescott Pickleball Association was formed. The PPA is headed by USAPA Peggy Travers and her volunteer staff, and have raised $96,000 from contributions both large and small. The goal is initially $175,000 for courts to be built in Pioneer park. The diagram shows what the vision of these courts will look like. The Prescott City Council and the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors have approved the building of the public courts, and the Prescott City Council recently approved $25,000 in matching funds from the city bed tax to help fund the project. Ms. Travers has targeted the courts to be complete by April, 2017.

So, as you can see, building public Pickleball courts in Prescott is a win-win situation. It will provide addition recreational avenues for our residence, additional tourist incentives, and additional revenue for our city.

If you would like to help out here is how to do it. Any donation is a 501-C3 tax deduction. In order to donate you can go online to : prescottpickleball.com and donate there, or send a check to the Arizona Community Foundation, 300 E., Willis Street, Prescott, AZ 86301. On the memo line write PPA, or send a check written to ACF with a memo line PPA to Peg Travers at 4691 Sharp Shooter Way, Prescott, AZ 86301. Watch the progress at prescottpickleball.com.

Want to know more or learn the basic game? Check with your HOA, such as Prescott Lakes, Granville, or Stone Ridge and find out where lessons are available. Also, free beginning lessons are available at Prescott YMCA the 2nd Wednesday at 9:30 a.m. and Fridays at 7 a.m. Free lessons are also offered at Willow Hills Baptist Church at 1071 Mogolion Road in Prescott and are taught by USAPA Ambassadors Douglas Seefeld, Ben Sialega and myself. All you need is tennis shoes and indoor sports wear.

Come join the fun and bring a friend. Find out what is meant by the idea of hearing all that laughter and ping of the ball!

Merry Christmas to each and everyone of you.