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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