Pickleball’s popularity and growing pains
America’s fastest growing sport is feeling growing pains.
Pickleball has exploded in popularity in the last few years, especially among older people looking for ways to socialize and keep in shape. Described as a mashup of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, the sport is relatively easy to learn and fun to play.
In 2022, there were 8.9 million U.S. pickleball players over age six, according to a 2023 Sports & Fitness Industry Association report referenced by USA Pickleball, the sport’s national governing body.
To keep up with demand, cities across Minnesota have been adding pickleball courts. Life Time, the Chanhassen-based fitness chain, has built about 500 courts nationwide and plans to double that to 1,000 by the end of 2024. And private pickleball clubs are popping up to offer beginner classes, leagues and tournaments.
But with popularity have come challenges, including injuries, complaints about noise from neighbors, fights over court time and a struggle to keep the game friendly and affordable for beginners.
MPR News host Angela Davis talks about the popularity of pickleball and its future.
Fuyei Xaykaothao is the founder of PikNinja Sports in Eagan, Minn., which makes pickleball gear and paddles. He’s also a former college tennis player and a former associate director of the non-profit St. Paul Urban Tennis.
Justin Hammerback is co-owner of Dropshot Pickleball Club in Shakopee, Minn., which opened nine indoor pickleball courts this summer.
Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.