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Cornelius News

Pickleball article nets letter about tennis

Photo: US Tennis Association

March 31. LETTER TO THE EDITOR. Recently, you published an article about pickleball. While it is definitely a growing sport, a recent study by the Physical Activity Council shows tennis is growing faster and is much larger.

According to this study tennis participation grew 22% or roughly 4.0 million people. This same study shows pickleball grew 21% and that there are 4.2 million people playing it.

Therefore, in 2020 tennis participation grew in one year to the current size of pickleball participation. As area tennis has continued to grow, one of our key challenges has been gaining access to enough tennis courts for the large number of players participating in leagues, as well as, for recreational play.

Photo: Town of Cornelius

While there have been some new or rebuilt tennis facilities, tennis courts are continuing to be lost to pickleball.

Clearly, interest in pickleball is growing, particularly with the 55 and over age group. But as demonstrated in the information below, the sport of tennis appeals to a much bigger and broader age group and provides a much larger financial contribution to this area.

Important statistics to consider

· In 2020, 21.6 million people, 6 years of age and over, played tennis in the US. This was an increase of 22% vs. 2019. Tennis had the largest number of participants AND showed the fastest growth of any racquet sport.

· At Lake Norman, adult league players numbered over 6,500–a 3% increase from 2019.

Jetton Park photo by Visit Lake Norman

· Over the last 5 years, the Lake Norman Tennis Association has paid locally over $100,000 in fees for court access for its adult and junior programs.

· Nearly, $150,000 has been provided locally to support the building and repairing of tennis courts, as well as, for items such as windscreens, benches, and scorekeepers.

· The 18+ NC USTA State Championships have been played in Lake Norman since 2002. The economic impact for the 1200+ adult participants is over $1 million for each of these 8 years, totaling nearly $8 million.

According to the 2020 Physical Activity Council report, 21.6 million people played tennis in 2020. This is a 22.4% rise from 2019, an increase of 4 million people, and the fastest rate of growth for any racket sport.

Measuring enthusiasm

Pickleball was played by 4.2 million, an increase of 21.3% and 740,000 players. The United States Tennis Association is the governing body for youth and adult tennis. Its current membership is almost 700,000. USA Pickleball is the governing body for pickleball, with a membership of 40,000. As a comparison, pickleball membership is approximately 5.7% of what tennis membership is.

Follow the money

Tennis has also brought significant financial contributions to this community. In 2019, the Lake Norman USTA leagues had nearly 6,500 participants. These players pay court fees to play these matches on your public courts.

Over the last 5 years, the Lake Norman Tennis Association has paid over $100,000 to area Parks and Recreation groups for league play.

Photo: Visit Lake Norman

Do other area racket sports pay for court fees and contribute to the income of parks and recreation departments?

For the last 8 years, Lake Norman has hosted the 18+ NC USTA Adult League State Championships. This event brings over 1,200 adult players from across the state to compete over 4 days for 11 different State Championship titles. A study of the annual economic impact to area hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. is over 1 million dollars. That’s $8 million since it began 8 years ago.

Courts must be available

One of the major criteria used in selecting host cities for these championships are the number and quality of available area tennis courts. Over 85 courts were used here in 2019 and more will likely be needed for the 2021 championships. Continued opportunities to bring this type of event to Lake Norman are largely dependent on having these available and in good condition in the future.

USTA-National, USTA-Southern, and USTA-North Carolina each have offered facility assistance grants in the form of technical and financial support for the construction and maintenance of area tennis courts.

These programs have contributed another $100,000-plus for the construction of the North Mecklenburg Park, Holbrook Park, and most recently, the Community School of Davidson tennis courts. The Lake Norman Tennis Association has also paid for tennis court supplies including such things as windscreens, scorekeepers, trash bins, signage, and benches.

Paying our way

Have other area racket sports provided significant technical or financial assistance for court construction?

What does the future hold for racket sports? It is anticipated that racket sports will continue to show growth. Tennis will continue to see growth among both youth and adults.

Local tennis leagues will continue to bring thousands of dollars of revenue to area Parks and Recreation departments. Lake Norman will continue to see 1,200 or more adult players come here each June to compete for a State Championship and to spend over a million dollars on hotels, food, and social activities.

More events?

With continuing improvement in the public and private tennis facilities, Lake Norman could become a site for hosting other additional Southern and National events, bringing players from all over the country. To keep the momentum going, we need your support in keeping the tennis courts we have now in good condition and to continue to build new courts to support the increasing number of players.

Tennis is a large and growing sport for all ages that financially supports the local community.

Lifetime sport

When future decisions are made regarding the construction or elimination of tennis courts, please consider the facts: Tennis is a lifetime sport played by all ages, it has large and growing numbers of players, it provides technical and financial contributions to court construction, and it ensures ongoing financial support to area Parks and Recreation departments and the community.

Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or would like a copy of the full report from the Physical Activity Council.

—JD Weber, President

Lake Norman Tennis Association

[email protected]


14 Responses to “Pickleball article nets letter about tennis”

  1. Why would you expect anything different from the president of the Lake Norman Tennis Association? I play both tennis and pickle ball and I knew for sure that there would be people like Weber who would take offense at pickleball players coming on what he thinks is *his court. He hasn’t taken in—with all his percentages—the fact that pickleball is a new sport and is rapidly growing. As a soccer player from New Jersey, I went through this 20 years ago when there were no soccer fields just baseball fields—and more baseball fields being built. Thank goodness Parks and Recreation didn’t take a view like Weber and not build soccer fields for the newest fastest growing field sport in this area.

    Posted by Tom Albert | March 31, 2021, 3:16 pm
  2. I wonder where all these tennis players are?
    I see empty and sparsely used tennis courts. In fact, they are being converted to pickleball courts. Pickleball players are paying use fees in many places as well. Finally, i have seen tennis listed as a struggling sport while pickleball is mentioned as a fastest growing sport!

    Posted by ken Ziegler | March 31, 2021, 3:29 pm
    • I agree. We play 6 days a week on 5 courts in Paso Robles. There are more players than courts. We look over at the tennis courts next to us and rarely see tennis players. Tennis is a dying sport in my area. I do not believe the numbers in this article.

      Posted by Larry Werner | March 31, 2021, 8:54 pm
    • they are not there and have not been for more than a couple years.

      Posted by mickey collins | March 31, 2021, 11:32 pm
    • Agreed, most tennis courts are never used while PB players continue to seek out courts. I would ask that the author cite his resources for the stats mentioned.

      Posted by Jay Lewis | April 1, 2021, 3:43 pm
    • I totally agree with you Ken.
      The only increase we have seen in our adult community is an increase in POP Tennis aka Paddle Tennis.
      Why because there are not enough Pickleball Courts.
      Just l9 rly unused Tennis Courts.

      Posted by Debbie | April 1, 2021, 4:12 pm
    • anecdotal thoughts should not trump hard facts and numbers. Can you refute any of the numbers stated and if so what is your source ?

      Posted by stephen riddle | April 2, 2021, 7:51 am
  3. Where are they paying to play Pickleball?
    Tennis players usually play after work to reduce their stress levels. In the county park system the courts were being locked at 5pm and lights not turned on for evening play due to the pandemic. So, perhaps that is why you saw empty and sparsely used courts. Also, high schools do not allow the public to use their courts except when the tournament comes to town in June.

    Posted by Kitty | March 31, 2021, 3:51 pm
    • I pay $80 a week to reserve a tennis court ( with four sets of pickleball lines) for 16 or more people to use four days a week for two hours each session. During those times the other two tennis courts are either empty or only used by 4-8 people. I see empty tennis courts frequently and consistently long waits at the few pickleball courts there are. All ages from 6-106 can play pickleball , even on the same court. Pickleball players have and are consistently willing to contribute to construction and maintenance of courts and shared equipment and if cities have tournaments they sell out immediately. This article is misleading and in some cases outright false.

      Posted by Darlene V | April 3, 2021, 8:32 am
  4. I represent the Lake Norman Pickleball Association and we support all paddle sports including Tennis. We have clinics this summer that teach both pickleball and tennis. The article failed to mention that despite requests over the past 6 years Cornelius has not built a single dedicated public pickleball court. As pickleball continues to grow I hope that both Tennis and Pickleball can become strong partners and jointly support the health and fitness for our community.

    Posted by Bob Nibarger - LKN Pickleball Association President | April 1, 2021, 10:11 am
  5. Both sports have benefited from the pandemic, so who cares which is the “fastest growing”!

    Posted by Keith H. | April 1, 2021, 10:42 am
    • Why does the money have to be the biggest factor? Shouldn’t we all just be grateful for exercise & companionship with our communities? Tennis players seem to feel they have elite & first right status to all courts. Sharing is caring! Let’s all just play & enjoy one another!!

      Posted by Michelle | April 1, 2021, 8:36 pm
  6. Here in Willamsburg, VA, there is definitely an uptick in pickleball. Communities are adding pickleball lines to their tennis courts or converting the tennis courts to permanent pickleball courts. The growth of pickleball is just as robust in neighboring communities in Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Richmond, Virginia. We still have vibrant tennis community and we support each other to help meet everyone’s needs.

    Posted by Chris A. | April 1, 2021, 1:17 pm
  7. As a former tennis player now an avid Pickleball player…I’d love to see both sports grow AND infrastructure support for both sports. I believe the numbers from both sides which sounds contradictory but is not. The real issue is not how many have played a game or two in the last year. I have no problem stipulating that tennis probably has 10x more people in this category. The difference in pickleball is the social nature of the sport and the frequency of play.
    A better measurement metric insofar as providing APPROPRIATE court space for both sports would be how many times a week people play on average. Where I am…we often have 20 to 30 waiting to play PB on the 3 courts which accommodate 12… DAILY and Weekends. And if the average player goes 3 or 4 times a week…that would make the sports much more equal given the low play rate I see on the adjacent tennis courts.
    Now if NO new infrastructure is to be built…then each municipality should measure use at available courts (video or game cam),and determine the number of PLAYER DAYS that are used for each sport and allocate available space accordingly. THEN we might have all of us together fighting for NEW space as out sports grow.

    Posted by george B | April 3, 2021, 12:40 pm

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