CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Pickleball is America’s fastest-growing sport, with more than 36 million Americans saying they played at least once last year. Sports figures like Lebron James and Tom Brady have invested in professional pickleball teams.
Queen City News first told you about a new year-round pickleball league starting in Charlotte. Leaders at the Association of Pickleball Professionals say the sport has been the fastest growing for three years.
Currently, locally owned tennis stores are changing how they do business to help meet the demand for pickleball in the Queen City.
“Pickleball has been growing all over the world,” Don Keistler said.
Pickleball has also been growing in the Carolinas. For 44 years, Keistler has served area tennis needs with his shop, Don’s Tennis Accessories.
“I started this tennis stuff because I break a lot of strings,” Keistler said.
These days Keistler is doing much more than replacing strings. The 69-year-old has picked up playing pickleball and selling pickleball products.
“We usually sell sometime two to four rackets a day and we have a demo policy where you try before you buy,” Keistler said.
USA Pickleball officially approves every paddle, and customers rarely return for repairs.
“We had one paddle that came apart because the guy went down too many times on the court and scrapped it up and tore it apart,” Keistler said.
Keistler brought in the durable products a year and a half ago, believing the sport has more room to grow.
“We probably going to have tournaments all over Charlotte,” Keistler said.
So far, his prediction is right. For the second year in a row, the world’s largest amateur pickleball tour is hosting a tournament in Charlotte. The tournament is set for the end of March.
“It’s a great town from a pickleball player standpoint. You see a lot of pickleball players from this part of the country. But specifically, it’s the facility,” World Pickleball Tour founder Jacob Taylor said.
The Carvana PPA Tour (Professional Pickleball Association) is also hosting North Carolina Open, May 4-7, at Lifetime Charlotte.
“You see it on TV. Pickleball needs there own channel. They have a tennis channel, but they need a Pickleball Channel,” Keistler said.
The Association of Pickleball Professionals is on tv, courtesy of two network partners.
Meanwhile, the hope is Don’s Tennis Accessories could one day supply gear to a future pickleball star.
“We are probably going to retire down the road, but as long as the man upstairs is looking at me, I am going to stay at it,” Keistler said.
The Queen City Tennis Shop, which has two locations, also has a pickleball section for players.
Right now, Mecklenburg County Parks & Recreation has more than two dozen public pickleball courts in the Charlotte area. A representative says there are plans to add more courts “in the future.”
This is the current list of courts at Mecklenburg County Parks:
- Pearl Street Park – 2 courts
- Freedom Park – 6 courts
- Enderly Park – 2 courts
- Martin Luther King – 6 courts
- Latta Park – 6 courts
- Independence Park – 1 court
- EB Moore Park – 2 courts
- Huntingtowne Farms – 2 courts
- Colonel Francis Beatty – 3 courts
- Carmel Rd (Currently being resurfaced for late spring activation) – 2 courts
- Clarks Creek – 8 courts
- Tuckaseegee Park – 6 courts