“Paddles at the Plex” pickleball tournament brings positive economic impact to Opelika

Published: Sep. 7, 2023 at 3:19 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 7, 2023 at 3:47 PM EDT
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OPELIKA, Ala. (WTVM) - Pickleball, a once-unknown sport, has rocketed in popularity in recent years gaining new players from different age groups all over the United States, including many more in West Georgia and East Alabama.

The Opelika Sportsplex hosted four pickleball tournaments in 2022, bringing in $1.7 million dollars in direct tax revenue.

Anthony Terling, the sports and event development manager of Opelika-Auburn Tourism, said along with the economic boost, tournaments bring the community together.

‘’Years ago you never hard of pickleball and now it’s a rage,” he said.

Pickleball has become one of the biggest sport trends in the last few years, with new courts popping up from East Alabama to Columbus.

Paddles on the Plex” pickleball tournament kicked off Sept. 5 in Opelika.

‘’And we’ve got about 740 players from all across the southeast. I think we’ve got 20 states represented. So, we’ve got a lot of people in town that’s a good thing,’' said Sam Bailey with Opelika Parks and Recreation.

Parks and recreation leaders said having a lot of people in the city is only a plus for the local economy.

‘’Tournaments we put on are always in the 700 range, and that means a lot to Opelika when that many people come in from out of town, stay at our hotels, shop at our stores and eat at our restaurants, and it’s been a big benefit. We’re very fortunate to been on the front end of that,” Bailey said.

714 players registered for this pickleball tournament in Opelika, and tourism leaders said the numbers are even higher with their fans.

‘’And that’s estimated to be around 300 plus thousand dollars, and so you can see, you know with that amount of people with a projection of about 800 plus room nights of hotels booked or any kind of lodging accommodation, it’s a very big impact for the community,’' Terling said.

People are coming from across the nation to come right here to the Opelika Sportsplex to play pickleball, and players said it doesn’t take too long to learn.

‘’Its pretty easy. I’d say you stay at it a couple times a week you’ll have it down a couple of weeks,” pickleball player,” Calvin Dulaney said.

‘’Just don’t think about the score you’re good. Just don’t think about that third number in there you’re good to go,’' another player, Bryan Walling said.

‘’And get yourself a good paddle,’' Dulaney said.

If you would like to watch the tournament, it goes until Sunday, Sept. 10 at the Opelika Sportsplex.

A lot of people are excited too about new pickleball courts coming to Columbus.