While Southwest Florida may traditionally be known for its golf courses, tennis courts and even bocce ball, it seems a new trend is taking over. Pickleball is gaining momentum in the region, joining the lengthy lists of available amenities offered within not only new communities but older ones as well.
Some consider pickleball as the nation’s fastest growing game, created in the mid-1960s by a lawmaker and his friend as family entertainment, named after the family’s dog Pickles who frequently went to fetch any balls that went astray. These days, however, pickleball is creating a real following. Described as a mix of badminton, Ping-Pong and tennis, the game’s played with a whiffle ball and a large paddle on a court the same size as a badminton court and with a net sitting three-feet high.
Players can find courts just about everywhere and some places also supply or rent out the paddles. Community parks and community centers often house pickleball courts, as do rec centers and YMCAs. There are even tournaments available that give those most interested in the game a place to gather and compete against each other. One such tournament in Collier County was estimated to have brought in hundreds of thousands of dollars to the local community, while attracting visitors from all over the globe.
It’s also now listed as an amenity in communities trying to attract new residents, such as those built by Neal Communities. Homebuilder Pulte became one of the first to add pickleball courts with the addition of courts at Del Webb Naples a number of years ago. Not to be outdone, more established communities such as Bonita Bay have also added courts in recent years and Pelican Preserve converted basketball courts over to pickleball courts four years ago, plus plans on adding several more soon.
While pickleball may be the latest trend in Southwest Florida, it’s definitely continuing to garner strong interest as more and more communities add courts, players and games to keep up with the demand.