Last year, the Red Deer Pickleball Open drew close to 400 competitors at the new courts in the northeast side of Red Deer, near St. Joseph High School. The club is set to host the 2021 Canadian Pickleball Nationals. (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)

Red Deer selected to host 2021 pickleball nationals

The Red Deer Pickleball Club is riding high this week after receiving some much-needed good news.

Next summer, the club is set to host the 2021 Canadian Pickleball Nationals.

Originally, they applied to host the event last summer, but it was awarded to Kingston, Ont., for both 2019 and 2020. Kingston relinquished the chance to host next year after the 2020 event was cancelled, and that allowed Red Deer to step in.

“There are two reasons we’re doing this: to showcase the facility and provide a thank you to our leadership, like Val and Gene (Vollmin), who put in so much work over the last number of years to make this happen,” said Dick Feser, one of the seven members on the bid committee.

Red Deer is one of the few places in Canada that has 20 fully dedicated pickleball courts, all in one place. The courts opened on June 25, 2019, on the northeast side of town, and the club said that’s one major reason why they were selected as the host of the national event.

“It helps us celebrate the city of Red Deer. The city and the province supported the building of those courts. They cost a lot of money and we’re just so grateful that we have this opportunity,” said Red Deer Pickleball Club president Brenda Feser.

The national tournament will run over five days, from Aug. 11 to 15, with anywhere between 500 and 600 participants set to hit the court.

There will also be two practice days ahead of the event, bringing players from all across the country.

While the planning is still in the early stages, they hope to have socials each night and other sources of entertainment for players and families.

“We’ve had a lot of conversations with people on the board of Pickleball Canada and we let them know very early we were interested in hosting in 2021. We didn’t have a lot of competition for the bid, but we’re certainly happy we got it,” added Feser.

The Red Deer club has become a hot spot for pickleball, one of the fastest-growing sports in North America. The club has blossomed since it started with just 30 members back in 2013.

They held their first tournament in 2016 at The Pines tennis courts, with more than 120 competitors.

Last year, the club had nearly 400 members, and this year, even with COVID-19 putting a dent in playing time, they still have close to 280.

Last summer, the club hosted its first event on the new courts and had close to 400 players show up from all over Western Canada. Despite the cold and rain, Gene Vollimin said it helped showcase their ability to put on a big event.

“Everything went well, except the weather,” he said.

Now the club will form a host committee to start getting things organized for the national event next summer. They estimate they will need close to 200 volunteers to make things run smoothly.

“It’s going to have a real festival atmosphere,” Feser said.

“We’re going to do our city proud.”

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