Pickleball Phenomenon Takes Over New York

Pickleball Phenomenon Takes Over New York

People play pickleball on a public court in Brooklyn, New York, on September 16, 2022. — AFP pic

Saturday, October 08, 2022 8:07 a.m.

NEW YORK, Oct. 8 — A game that’s easy to learn and more accessible than tennis, pickleball is all the rage in New York as the sport attracts investors and becomes increasingly professional in the United States.

On a recent weeknight at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, dozens of players, from 30-somethings to retirees, shared the four new courts at Brooklyn Bridge Park, which recently replaced the bocce courts.

Teams form spontaneously as players wait their turn in the park space that offers a unique view of the brightly lit skyscrapers of Manhattan.

“You come here, you put your paddle there, and you can play with a variety of people, beginners and intermediates,” said Amy Zhao, 52, with a smile.

With its neon perforated plastic ball, flat padel rackets and mandatory underhand serve, pickleball is a kind of “mini tennis”, especially due to its smaller court.

It’s also much cheaper: David Masters started playing pickleball when he realized that getting a spot to play tennis in a public park in New York cost US$100 (RM463.75).

“And also, you had to get up at like 6:00 am just to reserve a court,” the 31-year-old software engineer said.

Beyond tennis, pickleball takes on the air of both badminton and ping-pong, with ultra-fast exchanges that require quick reflexes.

Additionally, players must position themselves strategically on the court: competitors cannot hit the ball before it bounces if it lands in a no-volley zone that is right in front of the net.

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The game was invented in 1965 by three parents in the state of Washington.

In February, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association named it the fastest growing sport in the United States, with 4.8 million regular or casual gamers in 2021, up 39% from 2019.


The growth in New York is visible, with new courts popping up all over the city and where private coaches have even become in demand, some costing upwards of $75 an hour.

“During the pandemic, people wanted to have activities. And pickleball seemed to tick a lot of boxes,” said Karim Kerawala, 33.

“It allowed them to be outside and compete in something that didn’t require a lot of exercise, unless you wanted to … play at a higher level,” Kerawala said.

Calling pickleball his “new obsession,” he said a meeting app saw membership jump from around 200 to nearly 2,000 in a year.

A number of “pro” circuits have already sprung up, including the APP tour which was founded in 2019.

At the end of May the league organized a tournament in Flushing Meadows, on the grounds of the US Open.

According to Ken Herrmann, founder of the APP Tour, the interest and skill are such that qualifying tournaments are becoming necessary for professional events.

The PPA Tour of the competition, found in 2018, signed exclusive contracts with the 24 best players in the sport, both men and women.

They distributed $3 million in prizes in 2022, a sum that could double in 2023, said Hannah Johns, director of content for the PPA Tour.

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“It’s been absolutely crazy, how much it’s taken off. And a lot of that is because we were able to get bigger sponsors and broadcast partners involved,” Johns said, citing CBS, NBC and ABC among the networks and car rental company Hertz as brand names.

And with the already announced acquisition of the PPA Tour by the private investment firm founded by businessman Tom Dundon, who already owns the Carolina Hurricanes ice hockey team, Johns promises future partners in the world of booze and gambling. to come.

Major League Pickleball announced this week that it will join forces with NBA phenom LeBron James, who will buy a team as part of an ownership group that includes basketball champions Draymond Green and Kevin Love. — AFP

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