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City department gets into the swing of pickleball; tournament is June 24

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A fast-growing sport will take center court next Saturday at the municipal arena as the city’s Parks and Recreation Department hosts a pickleball tournament.

“As far as I know this is the first tournament that the city has ever hosted,” said James J. Scordo, program manager of Parks and Recreation. “We’re pretty excited to bring it in because it’s probably the fastest rising sport in the U.S. right now.”

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association reports that pickleball participation has grown an average of 158.6% over the last three years, indeed making it the fastest-growing sport in America. Participation in the sport doubled in 2022. Its numbers of participants have surpassed the amount of golfers in the U.S.

Youngsters have also become heavily involved in the sport — a fact that became clear to Mr. Scordo last week. “It’s starting to be brought into the PE side of schools,” he said. “When I did a career day at LaFargeville Central this past Friday, I mentioned the pickleball tournament and all the kids went nuts about it, saying they had just played pickleball. So they’re starting in schools, which is nice to see.”

The June 24 city tournament will involve teams of two players — beginners to experienced. The fee is $40 and the deadline to sign up is the end of the day on Wednesday. Players of all ages are invited to take part. As of Friday morning, eight teams had signed up for the tournament. The goal is to get eight more teams by the end of Wednesday.

“We just wanted to see what the popularity of it is in this area and wanted to put it out there,” said Mr. Scordo. “But even with eight teams, we’re still able to do a tournament.”

USA Pickleball, which saw a nearly 30% increase in membership growth in 2022, describes the sport as an activity that combines many elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. It can be played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net. Players use a paddle to swat a plastic ball with holes over the net.

Part of the attraction of the sport is the basic equipment needed to play. At Dick’s Sporting Goods, “Performance” pickleball paddles can be purchased for $250. But a basic set containing two paddles and two pickleballs costs $35. Separately, a three-pack of pickleballs, indoor or outdoor versions, costs $12 at Dick’s.

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