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Pickleball popularity and participation soars in Smithers

More pickleball courts have been built as demand keeps growing
The Town of Smithers is using the otherwise idle new arena to provide an area for pickleball courts as the sport continues to rise in popularity and participation. (Tom Best photo)

The fastest-growing sport in North America is taking over Smithers.

Pickleball is continuing to rise in popularity and participation, which has led to an increase in courts being built all over Smithers, as well as an increase in searches for these courts. According to Pickleheads, an online court data provider, searches for courts in Smithers have grown 129 per cent since last year.

There are now five public courts at the Smithers Christian Reformed Church and four at Smithers Secondary School, along with three other private venues that offer multiple courts to their members or to the public for a fee.

According to a January 2023 survey conducted by Pickleball Canada, more than 1.37 million Canadians played pickleball at least once a month, which represents a yearly growth of 37 per cent compared to 2022. There are more than 1,300 pickleball facilities in Canada according to Pickleheads.

One big advantage to the growth of the sport, is that it can be played on tennis courts. Since there are thousands of existing tennis courts in Canada, many have been adapted simply by painting pickleball lines within the existing court and lowing the net slightly.

It is also very simple to set up other venues of pickleball. For example, in Telkwa, the pickleball club adapted the outdoor Joseph F. Dockrill Memorial rink for pickleball in the summer. And in Smithers the town has used the new arena to provide space for the sport when the ice is out.

Brandon Mackie, co-founder of Pickleheads, says that the sport’s popularity started to grow during COVID-19.

“Pickleball exploded during the pandemic, when many were looking for responsible ways to socialize and stay active,” he recalled. “But that was only the beginning. Pickleball’s growth has continued even as lockdowns have ended and normal life has resumed.”

Mackie points to pickleball’s simple gameplay and format which have made it such a popular and growing sport among all ages. He also states the sport allows for a lot more social interaction than other sports.

“Pickleball is a social activity as much as it’s a sport,” he said. “It’s commonly played in an open-play format where 50 or even more players show up and rotate games and partners. You also almost always play pickleball as doubles, which leaves many opportunities to socialize and meet players.”

READ MORE: Pickleball grows in popularity