Photo by Raychel Brightman/Newsday RM via Getty Images
Once upon a time, pickleball was reserved for high school gym class.
These days, the tennis/ping-pong/badminton hybrid is experiencing a renaissance that has catapulted the sport to the big leagues, per Bloomberg.
A number of factors have led to the pickleball explosion
For the unfamiliar, pickleball is played with a square paddle that’s slightly larger than a ping-pong paddle on a court ~⅓ the size of a tennis court. The balls are plastic with scattered holes, similar to a wiffle ball.
The game’s simple rules and slower pace make it easier to master than tennis, offering players a solid workout with lower injury risk. This helped the sport build steam among retirees in the Sunbelt — but it’s quickly grown beyond them.
In 2020, ~4.2m people played pickleball, a 21% increase YoY.
Business is booming
This influx of interest has the pickleball economy hitting on all angles, including:
- Events: The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) held 16 tournaments in 2021, 2x the 2019 total — and grew prize money from $500k to $2.5m.
- Media: Fox Sports signed an agreement with the PPA to air pickleball tournaments nationally, while other tournaments have been featured on CBS Sports Network, Tennis Channel, and ESPN3.
- Sponsorships: The PPA has signed on Hyundai and Guaranteed Rate, among other corporate sponsors.
Adam Franklin, president of Franklin Sports, maker of a popular ball called the X-40, calls the sport “a bit of a unicorn business.”
Looking to join the pickleverse?
The best thing about it? There’s no such thing as being too old for pickleball.
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