By Emily Loughridge
The City of Yukon recently celebrated a grand opening for their recently renovated tennis and pickleball courts in City Park, but Yukon’s love of pickleball did not appear overnight.
Pickleball, which can be played indoors or outdoors, combines elements of ping pong, badminton and tennis. The sport was invented in 1965 and has grown in popularity in recent years.
Yukon’s Carma Branscum, the local pickleball coordinator, said she taught physical education and Health to students, including how to play pickleball, at Shedeck Elementary School for 30 years when Yukon did not have any courts.
Currently, Branscum and around 30 other people play Monday through Thursday at 9 a.m. in the Jackie Cooper Gymnasium, 1024 E Main.
But it did not start out this way.
Branscum said their games started in the Yukon Community Center (2200 S Holly), where they had two courts to play on.
But as more people began showing up to play, it was decided that more courts were needed to accommodate everyone.
The group’s next move was to play on half of JCG’s basketball court, giving them two courts at the YCC and three at JCG.
Yet, more people kept showing up which led to the group taking over all of JCG’s floor to play six continuous courts.
The six courts mean that 24 players are moving and rotating on the courts, while a handful of others wait to sub in for the next game.
18 YUKON COURTS
Brandon Mackie, a co-founder of Pickleheads, reported there are 18 pickleball courts in the Yukon area, including six at JCG, eight at City Park and four at Kimbell Park.
Pickleheads keeps an updated list of pickleball courts in various towns across the country to allow traveling players to find courts near them; Branscum said her courts have seen players from as close as Mustang to as far as Colorado.
The Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) reported that pickleball participation has grown an average of 158.6% over the last three years, making it the fastest growing sports in the U.S.
The Association of Pickleball Professionals (APP) estimated that 36.5 million people played pickleball in the U.S. in 2022.
SFIA continued to report that players 55 years and older made up the largest age group of pickleball players in 2021 with 19.8%, while players 18 to 34 years old came in second with 18.5%. Mackie wrote that pickleball is an easy sport to learn, and Branscum backs him up saying that each game lasts between five and 10 minutes, depending on how everyone is playing.
Mackie stated in 2023 there would be 47 major pickleball tournaments around the U.S., all hosted by the top three pro tours: Major League Pickleball (MLP), The Professional Pickleball Association (PPA), and APP.
The total prize pool would be between $9 to $11 million for the year.