The 2023 Pickleball Alberta Provincial Championships in Red Deer were the province’s highest attended ever.
Just over 540 people made their way to the Red Deer Pickleball Club to compete for gold last Thursday in the four-day event.
Past president of the Red Deer Pickleball Club and tournament chairperson Bob Phillip said the success of the tournament could lead to further growth for years to come.
“It doesn’t seem to be stopping anywhere,” he said. “The growth is coming not just from older generations but from 50 and under now. We’re seeing a real influx of people well under 50 years old.”
“Some clubs are putting limits on memberships right now because they don’t have enough courts to accommodate everyone. Red Deer could still handle another couple hundred without too much complication.”
Of the 545 participants, 240 were women and 205 were men who competed in 926 matches throughout provincials.
In comparison, pickleball nationals held in Red Deer in 2021 had approximately 900 players.
During provincials, they held both men’s and women’s singles and doubles events. They also held mixed doubles and for the first time junior competitions, which was 18 and under.
“It was a small group but now we’re getting kids participating and being very competitive with the games,” he said.
“It’s a very easy sport to learn so it makes it easier for a lot of people to get involved… It’s a very social game as well. I think that’s one of the biggest parts about pickleball and everyone tends to have a lot of fun playing it.”
He added that despite some inclement weather the tournament was a success.
“Considering the delay on Thursday with rain and about an hour-and-a-half delay on Friday we were able to get everyone through… Overall pretty well everybody got the matches in that were booked so that was great,” he said.
“It was a great event and the city of Red Deer was a great place to have it because we’re centrally located.”
Phillip said when the Red Deer Pickleball Club first started they had 200 players which has grown to 900 today. The 20 pickleball courts at the club were built back in 2019 and were the first of that size constructed in Canada.
“We had to have been the leader in that because there are not many cities that have these facilities in Canada let alone Alberta,” he said. “Us and Medicine Hat both have great facilities in Alberta.”
The last time Red Deer hosted provincials was in 2019 and Phillip said Pickleball Alberta tends to rotate who hosts but with the growth of the game they may be limited.
“Hopefully this will generate interest from other communities.”