Pickleball growing in Opelika-Auburn, provides tourism opportunities

Pickleball expands in Opelika
Updated: Mar. 14, 2021 at 2:12 PM CDT
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OPELIKA, Ala. (WTVM) - Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the world and it’s creating more attraction and business over in East Alabama.

The pickleball facility in Opelika has only open for two years and since then, the Opelika-Auburn pickleball club has gained over 300 members not only from Alabama and Georgia, but from all over the United States.

It’s a game of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong: all in one. And it’s positively impacting the Opelika-Auburn area in a big way.

“All it took was the first hit. You go down there, that’s what’s amazing about this game is that first hit really hooks people,” said John Parks, Opelika-Auburn pickleball member

Just a few years ago, many residents didn’t know much about the pickleball sport. Now, the Opelika-Auburn pickleball club has 350 members and one of the few covered tournament facilities in the nation.

“We are currently the only place that has this many covered courts, and outdoor courts,” said Sam Bailey, Opelika Parks and Recreation Director.

Bailey brought the idea of a pickleball facility to life in 2019.

“It’s twelve courts, all are covered, all of them are fenced individually for tournament play,” said Bailey.

The club is not only open for players 24/7, but their Paddles at the Plex tournaments have brought many people from out of state to the facility.

“We put pins in where people, they come and visit our location,” said Bailey. “So, you can see we’ve had people come in from all over the United States, even outside the United States.”

The popularity from tournaments is providing Opelika and Auburn more opportunities for tourism.

“Everybody goes out after they play, they go down and go to Opelika and have dinner and some of those cute restaurants and stay at the hotels and it’s just a win-win,” said Casey Soule, Opelika-Auburn Pickleball Club President.

Opelika-Auburn pickleball player John Parks says the attraction comes from being a sport for all.

“The game is evolving so much, you know, all ages, a family sport, I mean it’s something you don’t have to be athletic,” said Parks. “Everybody’s nice and everybody welcomes you, I’ve never seen a sport like this, I play a lot of sports, and this sport is such a blessing.”

The Opelika-Auburn pickleball club will have their next Paddles at the Plex tournament June 24-27.

A pickleball facility might also be coming to Columbus soon. A few Columbus pickleball players are about to launch the Columbus, GA pickleball association with hopes of bringing a tournament ready facility to the area.

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