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Pickleball craze sparks a building boom at RV resorts in Sunbelt Print E-mail
Published: Tuesday, 18 February 2014 14:16

Is tennis going by the wayside?

Probably not.

But at RV parks and resorts across the Sunbelt, empty nesters and retirees are abandoning tennis in favor of pickleball, an easy to learn, senior-friendly sport that requires hitting the ball over a net, but in a small court that doesn’t require nearly as much running around.

“Pickleball is amazingly popular,” said Vickie Jepperson, manager of Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort in El Mirage, Ariz. “In all of my years working in the RV resort business, I’ve never a sport, other than golf, that is this popular.”

So popular, in fact, that RV parks and resorts in Arizona and across the Sunbelt are converting some of their tennis courts into pickleball courts and building new pickleball courts to accommodate the rapidly increasing numbers of pickleball enthusiasts, said Jo Ann Mickelson, executive director of the Arizona Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds.

“We put in our first two pickleball courts in 2011," said Cherie Suddarth, manager of the 754-site Gold Canyon RV and Golf Resort in Gold Canyon, Ariz. "Then we added two more in 2013. And this summer we’re putting in two more.”

Demand for pickleball courts has become so intense that RV parks and resorts that don’t have pickleball are losing snowbird business to other parks that do. Even parks that don’t have enough pickleball courts are at risk.

Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort installed its first two pickleball courts six years ago. But so many snowbirds took an interest in pickleball that lines started to develop and the resort ended up losing some of its snowbirds to other parks that had more pickleball courts.

“We didn’t have enough pickleball courts, so we lost people,” Jepperson said.

But not for long. Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort responded to demand by adding 16 more pickleball courts, which were completed two years ago.

And the park’s facilities are so highly regarding that the 1,284-site resort will be hosting the Grand Canyon State Games, the third largest pickleball tournament in the world, from Wednesday, Feb. 19, through Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014.

Jepperson said pickleball has become a big business that draws players from all over the country.

And RV parks and resorts that have the largest and highest quality pickleball facilities often wind up hosting pickleball tournaments that bring in more guests.

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa Grande will have an in-house tournament today, Feb. 17, through Wednesday, Feb. 19, which involves the park’s guests. But March 7 to 9 the resort will have its annual open tournament, which will draw hundreds of pickleball enthusiasts, said Wendell Johnson, Palm Creek’s general manager.

“We have had several people come in RVs for the tournament and then come back to stay with us during the following winter season," Johnson said. "We have also had many non RVers come for the tournament and later rent or buy a home. Our 24 pickleball courts have been a great marketing tool for Palm Creek.”

Indeed, pickleball is popular no only with snowbirds, but people of all ages.

“We’ve even converted some of our tennis courts into pickleball courts,” said Mickelson of the Arizona Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds, who owns JH RV Park in Flagstaff.

Suddarth of Gold Canyon RV & Golf Resort said pickleball is also easy to learn, so it’s a sport that anyone can learn quickly. “It’s a great activity for people to meet each other and have fun,” she said.

Learn more about pickleball at http://pickleball.com.  

 
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