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How Accessibility And Community Have Led To Pickleball’s Popularity Growth In Utah

A photo of a group of people playing pickleball.
Tessy Roundy
A group of people play a casual game of doubles pickleball at 11th Ave. Park in Salt Lake City.

A recent study ranked Salt Lake City as one of the best cities in the country to play pickleball — a sport that combines aspects of tennis and ping pong. It’s played on a small court with rackets and a wiffle ball.

Salt Lake ranked fourth in the nation behind Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona and Riverside, California. The study looked at the number of courts per capita, number of clubs and typical weather conditions.

Erik Gertler is a professional pickleball player and instructor and has been playing for over 30 years.

Gertler grew up near Seattle, where pickleball originated in the late 60s, so he was introduced to it in physical education class as a kid. He said that’s where he fell in love with the sport and he’s been playing ever since.

Gertler remembers playing in tournaments in southern Utah 12 years ago. He said back then nobody from the central and northern parts of the state were competing and most had no idea what it was.

Gertler said now, the game is exploding in popularity because it’s accessible to almost anyone.

“We’re very family focused here in Utah,” he said, “The fact that you can have mothers and daughters and grandfathers play all at the same time, I think is really what's driving the interest here in Utah.”

Ellen Bacot lives in St. George and picked up pickleball in February when she moved to an active retirement community.

She said she loved playing right away, but her favorite part is the sense of community it’s given her.

“I didn't know a lot of people in my neighborhood when I started playing,” Bacot said. “I moved in as a single person in the community that I live in, and so it really helped me to meet people … that's the thing that I love about it.”

Tess Roundy is KUER’s summer 2021 newsroom intern. She describes herself an aspiring radio journalist who enjoys telling and hearing human interest stories. Tess is currently studying journalism at the University of Utah.
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