Pickleball is sweeping the nation, and creating a full-blown gold rush

Pickleball has spiked in popularity throughout the pandemic, with 4.2m people playing the sport in 2020, a 21% increase YoY.

Photo by Raychel Brightman/Newsday RM via Getty Images

Pickleball is sweeping the nation, and creating a full-blown gold rush

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?

New courts are popping up at public parks and schools across the country — and if you want to study up, you can choose from a wide selection of podcasts, books, and even magazines.

The best thing about it? There’s no such thing as being too old for pickleball.

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