Cricket, think: Lords Cricket Ground - London, UK
American Football, think: Lambeau Field - Green Bay, Wisconsin
Tennis, think: Wimbledon - London UK
Golf, think: The Masters - Augusta, Georgia
Pickleball, think: East Naples Community Park - Naples, Florida???
Before examining the case for Naples, Florida becoming the epicenter of Pickleball, a homage must be paid to Bainbridge Island. Although, Bainbridge Island is a shrine to Pickleball and the spirit of the game which was created by its founders, its location and its weather are variables against Bainbridge Island becoming the epicenter of Pickleball.
Pickleball venues in Arizona as well as the huge Pickleball complex built via community recreation centers in The Villages outside Orlando, Florida might be considered epicenters of Pickleball.
Indeed, Arizona is a Pickleball hotbed, but there is not a single stand-alone venue that stands above any one of the other centers there. The Villages, near Orlando, has a considerable concentration of Pickleball players and a world class Pickleball club running the show, but it has not been designed to accommodate a large influx of day visitors and access to its 160 courts is limited.
So what is the case for East Naples Community Park becoming the epicenter of Pickleball.
SW Florida from Marco Island to Punta Gorda is a Pickleball stronghold. The East Naples Community Park outside Naples, Florida is a public facility open to all and is the focal point for Pickleball. Its facilities are being expanded and the park will soon have close to 50 Pickleball courts available for hosting Pickleball tournaments; e.g., the South Atlantic Region Southern Tropics and the upcoming first ever US Open Pickleball Championships.
- GOVERNMENT & BUSINESS SUPPORT
The Naples government and business community have provided across the board support for Pickleball and the East Naples Community Park.
- LOCATION & CLIMATE
Naples has warm and sunny winter weather and the infrastructure to handle the influx of tourists coming to play or view the Pickleball tournaments.
The Southern Tropics tournament held at the end of February 2016 proved that East Naples Community Park is more than capable of running a large Pickleball tournament with complete success. At the end of April 2016, the first US Open Pickleball Championship will be held at East Naples Community Park. This tournament is attracting a lot of national & international Pickleball attention and should be the largest Pickleball event ever held. A thousand players are expected to participate and many more viewers will be on hand to to take in the Pickleball action. How well the US Open operates, while keeping with the spirit of Pickleball - FUN - as in Bainbridge Island - will have a bearing on whether or not Naples Community Park becomes a landmark location for Pickleball.
With the above combination of positive factors, the odds of East Naples Community Park becoming the epicenter of Pickleball in the next five years are probably better than 60 percent.