SL Heritage Festival pickleball tourney continues growth

Nich Wolak • Updated Jun 10, 2016 at 12:04 AM

SPRING LAKE — The new pickleball courts at Central Park will see some strong competition this weekend.

More than 100 pickleball players will participate in the Spring Lake Heritage Festival’s three-day tournament. The playing surface will be broke in Saturday by the women’s doubles’ division. Mixed doubles follows on Sunday, with the men’s doubles’ tournament taking place on Monday.

“With all the new renovations at Central Park, this is the big event, so we're really excited about that,” said tournament director Kevin Curley. “It's a big deal. We went from six courts in Mulligan’s Hollow, now we're going to have 14 courts in the area. They're so close together, it's a big deal. There are not many places in Michigan that has this many opportunities for a pickleball player. I think everyone is excited. This tournament is a good size, 122 players. It's a big-sized tournament.”

The tournament has grown in each of the three years Curley has acted as the organizer, jumping from 60 to 80, to this year’s figure.

He said he wasn’t surprised, considering the growth trend of the sport.

“Pickleball in general in the United States is growing leaps and bounds,” Curley said. “It is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. I'm not surprised, I’m glad. I’m happy people are signing up for tournaments. Everywhere the number of people signing up for tournaments is high. It's just a trend we’re seeing everywhere.”

Curley claimed the sport sucks you in.

“It's addicting,” he said. “… It's a fun sport, it's attractive to all levels, not just skill level, but all ages. You get a lot tennis, racquetball, ping-pong players who really like pickleball. They can use those skills from other sports. ... Once you do play it, you figure it out right away. I just held a clinic. ... After the class, they were like, ‘Oh my gosh, I can't believe it took me this long to get involved with pickleball.’”

Curley fell in love with the sport the minute he laid eyes on it.

“I was working with the Spring Lake Fitness and Aquatic Center, they have pickleball there every day. I just happened to walk in the gym one day, and I was trying to figure out what they were doing. I got the bug, as they say. Ever since I've been pretty involved.”

Other locals have caught the bug as well. Curley said a number of them are return participants in the tournament.

“We are getting a lot of the same players, and that's always nice,” Curley said. “There’s always a social aspect of pickleball in general, but within each bracket is competition. People take it seriously, it's not ‘Hey, were showing up to have a good time. That's a component of it, but it's a serious game. It's just like any other sport, people are competitive, as they should be.”

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