Pickleball is America’s fastest-growing racket sport—and its biggest stage is headed to Dallas this month for the USA Pickleball National Championships. Last year, USA Pickleball and the Carvana Professional Pickleball Association announced that the 2023 National Championships would move from California to Brookhaven Country Club in the Dallas area.
In a region with the full complement of professional teams, the pickleball championships are a savvy fit. The Sports Business Journal recently named Dallas the top American city for sports business, beating out markets like New York City, Minneapolis, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. As the world’s largest pickleball tournament in history, the National Championships represent a new feather in Dallas’ sports cap with an estimated economic impact of $10 million, according to the Dallas Sports Commission.
Organizers expect 3,500 or more amateur and professional competitors, a 50% jump over last year’s championships in California. Participants will vie for the largest purse in tournament history, in front of an estimated 25,000 fans, up from 5,552 last year. “We plan to host an unparalleled fan experience for those who aren’t playing in the event themselves,” says Melissa Zhang of USA Pickleball.
Brookhaven has been investing in plenty of upgrades, which include designating the street beyond its front door as “Pickleball Boulevard.” The club is building a $5 million pickleball center and will accommodate up to 65 courts for the tournament. Brookhaven is also creating spaces for nightly live music and interactive events, as well as family-friendly activities. Vendors from all over Texas will be on-site as part of “Taste of Pickle” to help make fans and players feel like they’re at the Super Bowl of pickleball, in a market used to large-scale sporting events. Brookhaven’s commitment was a key factor in bringing the “crown jewel” of the sport to Dallas, said USA Pickleball board chair Robert Quicksilver. “We look forward to seeing how these renovations and upgrades will further elevate this year’s player and fan experience,” he says.
The sport of pickleball was reportedly invented in the 1960s near Seattle by a group of dads eager to relieve their children’s summer doldrums. Over time, pickleball has evolved with better gear and a more well-defined rulebook for the sport that feels like one part tennis, one part badminton, and one part ping-pong. Simple and accessible, the game is played outdoors and indoors on surfaces with the same measurements as a badminton doubles court. Players use paddles and perforated plastic balls similar to old-school Wiffle balls.
Naturally, it has taken off in Texas, with Plano ranking among the top 10 U.S. cities for number of courts, and significant growth in the Park Cities. Stan Keith, a retired Park Cities resident and somewhat of a pickleball rookie, has played for several months with a group at Royal Oaks Country Club in Dallas. “The competitive juices always seem to come out and we forget we’re not 21 anymore,” Keith says. Tammy Saunders is a registered nurse in Dallas. An avid marathoner in a family filled with athletes, she played for the first time with her kids and friends at Grapevine’s Chicken N Pickle. “It can be for fun or as an aggressive sport,” she says.
The multigenerational sport’s popularity in the Park Cities and DFW continues, and the National Championships this month will only serve to boost pickleball’s escalating growth curve. November 6-12, usapickleball.org
There is controversy over the origin of the name “pickleball.” Some say it was named after a family dog, Pickles; others insist it came from the term “pickle boat” in rowing.
There are different forms of pickleball paddles, which vary in weight, shape, surface, and grip size.
There is no pickleball dress code or official uniform needed to play or compete in the sport.
When a player wins a pickleball game, picklers say they “pickled” the match, while losers are known as “pickled” players.
Where to Play in the Park Cities
There's a growing number of pickleball courts in the Park Cities and DFW. Try one of the seven courts in Highland Park. Check hptx.org for more information, including locations and permits needed to play. University Park offers six pickleball courts at Williams Park for recreational play; court reservations can be made online at uptexas.org. Pickleball games are also offered at the Moody YMCA on Tuesdays and Thursdays.