BY David Hollis
The Indian Wells Tennis Garden will make room for thousands of pickleball players this November when it hosts the "biggest, baddest pickleball tournament in the world," according to Indian Wells City Manager Wade McKinney.
The facility will add championship pickleball courts for the USAPA National Pickleball Championships Nov. 3-11. The city will repaint the tennis courts to accommodate 45 pickleball courts in the Tennis -- or Pickleball -- Garden, including one for the championships. Most courts will be painted back for tennis games after the tournament.
The tournament had to wait-list almost 500 players after registration hit its 2,000-player peak in one day on Aug. 1. This will equate to about 550 matches per day and nearly 5,000 matches over the span of the event. USAPA Director Justin Maloof said that shows how quickly the sport is gaining popularity.
“This will be the premier event for the sport and will draw top players from all over the U.S. and world,” Maloof said. “The top names mean something in the pickleball world, but we are trying to elevate those names to the mainstream. Indian Wells Tennis Garden is one of the most beautiful venues for the sport and we are hoping this move will bring our players into the national mainstream spotlight.”
The tournament has historically been hosted in Arizona across multiple venues, though organizers found themselves in a pickle as they outgrew the space. It will now remain in Indian Wells for five years.
The national championships launched in 2009 in Arizona, where over 400 players participated. Last year, that number grew to 1,300, making it the largest pickleball tournament to date, meaning it became what some might call a "big dill." In comparison, the rival U.S. Open Pickleball Championships boasted about 1,000 competitors last year.
In addition to observing premier pickling, spectators will have a wide array of food, beverage and entertain selections to enjoy, Maloof said. A number of pickleball sponsors will be on-site selling the latest paddles, balls, equipment, and apparel as well. It is not yet known if pickles will be sold, as pickles have no actual relation to the sport.