Born on Bainbridge Island, Pickleball Designated Washington’s State Sport

A new law designating pickleball as the official state sport of Washington is taking center court. Pickleball, a mash-up of badminton, tennis and pingpong has come a long way since its invention on Bainbridge Island in 1965. A number of local pickleball players have turned pro and brand new businesses are opening to cater to the boom in recreational play.

Washington will become the 16th state with an official sport. Some of the other states that have gone before have obvious pairings such as Hawaii and surfing, Minnesota and ice hockey, Alaska and dog mushing. There are also some less obvious designations such as Colorado where the state sport is pack burro racing, or Maryland where it’s jousting. Oregon and Idaho don’t have an official state sport.

At the Washington Legislature, prime sponsor Sen. John Lovick of Mill Creek declared “Washington will someday be known as the birthplace of Boeing, Microsoft, Starbucks and pickleball. Tourists will travel to Bainbridge Island to see the first pickleball court and visit the Bainbridge Island historical museum’s pickleball exhibit. “

According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, pickleball has been the fastest growing sport in the U.S. for the past several years. Insiders estimate there are around two dozen professional players who call Oregon, Washington and Idaho home. The game now has two competing national tournament circuits. Eight players from the Pacific Northwest collected payouts on the Professional Pickleball Association tour over the past year.

Public parks and rec departments all around the region are under pressure to build more outdoor pickleball courts or restripe their tennis courts to meet demand.

Eastern Washington University in Cheney is preparing to host hundreds of amateur players for this July’s Pacific Northwest regional championships in pickleball. A few weeks later, a big tournament in Bend will offer 25-thousand dollars in prize money. [QHEAC]

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