Philip Menard of Calgary plays a shot as partner Leo Charney of Cochrane watches at the Red Deer Pickleball Open on Saturday at Pines Community Park. (Photo by Byron Hackett/ Advocate Staff)

Pickleball tourney draws huge crowd

Pickleball is becoming one of the fastest-growing sports in Central Alberta.

The Red Deer Pickleball Club hosted its second annual sanctioned open event over three days last weekend. More than 200 pickleball enthusiasts converged on Pines Community Park for a demonstration of the sport.

Players travelled from Saskatchewan, British Columbia and as far as the Northwest Territories to take part.

“Last year we had a 127 participants and this year we have 206,” said club president Val Vollmin. “It’s just really growing. The growth across the country is tremendous. The interest is there.”

The tournament displayed talent from beginners all the way to national level 5.0 competitors. Even with the mix of abilities, everyone was out to have a good time and show off a little bit of their competitive fire.

“They all love pickleball and we’re all kind of addicted to it,” Vollmin said.

“There’s a social aspect to it too. It’s kind of like a family reunion, you have people coming from all over that you see at pickleball tournaments.”

With growth in the sport at an all-time high, Vollmin also explained the local club has seen immense growth this season, a sure sign people are starting to catch the fever.

“We have new people coming out every week. It just continues to grow. I think we started the spring off with 160 or so members, so we certainly should be 200 or better by the end of the year,” she said.

Vollmin also hopes the growth will help the club add more courts in the future so they can eventually host regional competitions.

“We’re hoping to have our new courts in the spring of 2018 which will allow us to host an even bigger event. We could certainly do a regional event. That would be great,” she said.

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