Pickleball Craze Sweeps Arizona Snowbird RV Parks

Snowbird RV parks and resorts across Arizona, empty nesters, and retirees are abandoning tennis in favor of pickleball, an easy to learn, senior-friendly sport that requires hitting the ball over a net, but in a small court that doesn’t require nearly as much running around.

Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort Pickleball Group

Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort Pickleball Group

“Pickleball is amazingly popular,” said Vickie Jepperson, manager of Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort in El Mirage, Arizona.

“In all of my years working in the RV resort business, I’ve never seen a sport, other than golf, that is this popular.”

So popular, in fact, that RV parks and resorts in Arizona and across the Sunbelt are converting some of their tennis courts into pickleball courts and building new pickleball courts to accommodate the rapidly increasing numbers of pickleball enthusiasts, said Jo Ann Mickelson, executive director of the Arizona Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds.

“We put in our first two pickleball courts in 2011. Then we added two more in 2013. And this summer we’re putting in two more,” said Cherie Suddarth, manager of the 754-site Gold Canyon RV and Golf Resort in Gold Canyon, Arizona.

Demand for pickleball courts has become so intense that RV parks and resorts that don’t have pickleball are losing snowbird business to other parks that do. Even parks that don’t have enough pickleball courts are at risk.

Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort installed its first two pickleball courts six years ago. But so many snowbirds took an interest in pickleball that lines started to develop and the resort ended up losing some of its snowbirds to other parks that had more pickleball courts.

Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort new pickleball courts

Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort new pickleball courts

“We didn’t have enough pickleball courts, so we lost people,” Jepperson said. But not for long.

Pueblo El Mirage RV & Golf Resort responded to demand by adding 16 more pickleball courts, which were completed two years ago.

And the park’s facilities are so highly regarding that the 1,284-site resort will be hosting the Grand Canyon State Games, the third largest pickleball tournament in the world, from today (February 19) through Sunday, February 23.

Jepperson said pickleball has become a big business that draws players from all over the country.

And RV parks and resorts that have the largest and highest quality pickleball facilities often wind up hosting pickleball tournaments that bring in more guests.

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort in Casa Grande is having an in-house tournament today (February 19) which involves the park’s guests. But March 7 to 9 the resort will have its annual open tournament, which will draw hundreds of pickleball enthusiasts, said Wendell Johnson, Palm Creek’s general manager.

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort Pickleball

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort Pickleball

“We have had several people come in RVs for the tournament and then come back to stay with us during the following winter season. We have also had many non RVers come for the tournament and later rent or buy a home. Our 24 pickleball courts have been a great marketing tool for Palm Creek.”

Indeed, pickleball is so popular it’s not just popular with snowbirds, but people of all ages.

“We’ve even converted some of our tennis courts into pickleball courts,” said Mickelson of the Arizona Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds, who owns JH RV Park in Flagstaff.

Suddarth of Gold Canyon RV & Golf Resort said pickleball is also easy to learn, so it’s a sport that anyone can learn quickly. “It’s a great activity for people to meet each other and have fun,” she said.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a fast paced, easy game to learn and very similar to tennis, yet easier on older joints. As a matter of fact it can be played on a tennis court with a few minor conversions.

Pickleball combines elements of badminton, tennis, and ping-pong (table tennis), and is played on a court with the same dimensions as doubles badminton. It is played as a singles game with one person per side or more commonly as a doubles game with two people on each side of the 36 inches high net.

Each player uses a hard-surface paddle (total length plus width of the paddle cannot exceed 23¾ inches). The object of the game is to score points by successfully hitting a three-inch-diameter polymer (plastic) ball that is perforated with holes (similar to a whiffle-ball) across the net without it being successfully returned by the opponent (s).

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort Pickleball

Palm Creek Golf & RV Resort Pickleball

Served with an underhand stroke, the ball must bounce before it can be returned on the serve and must bounce before the second return. Games are played to 11 points.

Over time the rules of the game have become more sophisticated but when first developed, pickleball was a simple game designed for all ages and any athletic ability level.

Earlier stories on pickleball can be seen by clicking here.

Worth Pondering…

Well…, meet me in the morning, meet me in the evening, meet me at pickleball time

Be my pickleball partner and we’ll have a good ole time.

Be my pickleball partner and we’ll have a good ole time.

Go and grab your paddle, and swear to your friends around

You’ll be loving pickleball, ‘til the end of time.

Yes, we’ll have a good ole time

It’s Pickleball – Pickleball – Pickleball – time

—Singing Pickleball Pete

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