Pickleball is growing as a spectator sport

Pickleball is growing as a spectator sport

Pickleball isn't just a game to play with friends for fun anymore. The Professional Pickleball Association hosts the PPA Tour which has grown to 64 full-time touring professional players and a 25-event season. Organizers said tickets to the Orange County Cup held through Sunday in San Clemente sold out.

“I view it as Disneyland for adults. People are having a blast and having a really good time. The professional sport’s really grown into becoming a spectator sport,” Bryce Morgan, president of the PPA Tour, said.

Callan Dawson, a full-time professional pickleball player who lives in Encinitas won placed fourth in men’s doubles in the tournament. Dawson is currently ranked 11th in men’s doubles on the PPA tour.

A fourth place finish comes with a $2,750 prize, for first place, winners earn $10,000.

Estareja said there is a group in San Diego who is advocating for more tennis courts being converted into pickleball courts.

“There are a lot of tennis courts that are unused right now that could be repurposed or just shared with pickleball players,” Estareja said. “Just to have more accessibility to the sport right now is kind of where the biggest need is in San Diego. I think we have a ton of great players and we’re kind of looking for a place to hone our skills.”

La Mesa resident Roman Estareja recently became a PPA professional. He said he plays pickleball because he loves the game.

The PPA Tour has held events in Florida, Arizona and other cities in California, but not San Diego. But PPA President Morgan said they've been in contact with the owners of The HUB in Spring Valley about the possibility of bringing the PPA tour here.

“We’re always looking for up and coming areas where there’s a lot of interest in the sport. Obviously we want the amateurs to come out and experience playing in the best tour. This is an amateur and professional event at the same time,” Morgan said.

According to Morgan, a PPA Tour event can generate hundreds of thousands of dollars into a city’s local economy.

“Travel impact is huge. We’ll sell out multiple hotels everywhere we go. The rental impact, the food impact, the nightlife impact,” he said.

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