Rising Popularity of Pickleball brings the Pro Tour to Avalon, NJ
The City of Avalon continues to strike a balance between pickleball fans and tennis traditionalists while keeping up with neighboring towns adding pockets of pickleball courts around their municipalities.
The Association of Pickleball Players (APP) Pro Tour is coming to Avalon this week for the 2023 New Jersey Open hosted at the 8th Street Pickleball Courts from Wednesday, September 6th through Sunday, September 10th. Pickleball is a variation of Tennis, offering a fast-paced game for audiences while players participate in action that requires less lateral movement than the Professional Tennis Tour has seen in recent days in New York City at the US Open. The APP Tour coming to Avalon thanks in large part to the significant upgrades to their 8th Street Recreation Complex in recent years. To locals older than 28 years old, the Avalon Recreation Complex was always known for offering a playground, tennis courts, and baseball fields. But in recent years, the installation of pickleball courts has coincided with the exploding popularity of the sport and you see more pickleball being played than kids on the playground.
The 2023 Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s (SFIA) Topline Participation Report announced earlier this year that pickleball continued to be America’s fastest-growing sport for the third year in a row. Even though Pickleball was first created in 1965, the growth of the sport's popularity was born out of the COVID-19 Pandemic when people wanted to be active but have "distance" from others. Pickleball has almost five million participants in the United States and many towns across the country have worked to be welcoming to Pickleball Players while not neglecting the traditionalists who play Tennis.
North of Avalon, New Jersey you will find their neighbors in Sea Isle City have overhauled two different areas of town to accommodate Pickleball players. On 42nd Street between Landis Avenue and Central Avenue, you will find Pickleball courts across the street from the Basketball Courts (on West New Jersey Avenue) along with another set of Pickleball courts in the Fish Alley section of town adjacent to the JFK Boulevard Bridge. Earlier this year, Sea Isle City Pickleball Courts were the host of Former Eagles Player Conor Barwin's Make The World Better Pickleball Tournament.
At the August 25th Avalon City Council Meeting, City Administrator Scott Wahl explained the borough's plans to convert the three older tennis courts into new Pickleball courts while building three new Tennis Courts on the south end of the Recreation Complex. There are already 10 Pickleball courts in Avalon, which is where the APP Pro Tour's 2023 New Jersey Open will be played. Avalon is still trying to maintain that delicate balance between the traditional Tennis players and newcomers who play Pickleball, with representatives from the "8th Street Tennis Group" present at recent Avalon City Council Meetings.
Even though New Jersey is one of the top ten states for people to play Tennis in, the growth of Pickleball has forced many towns and businesses to adjust. Candice Kolins and Kristen Vogelbacher are the owners of Cruise Control Gear, a luxury tennis and pickleball activewear brand featuring men's, women's, and kid’s collections. But their backgrounds are in the game of Tennis, not Pickleball: Candice played both singles and doubles tennis for four years at Villanova University while Kristen competed as captain at Princeton University and both were recently inducted into the South Jersey Tennis Hall of Fame.
I spoke to Candice about the APP Tour coming to Avalon this month and the growth of Pickleball's impact:
"It's awesome that pickleball now has a pro tour just like tennis. Both sports are fantastic for all ages and are wonderful racquet sports.....This rise in popularity for pickleball has helped the overall love of racquet sports which include both tennis and pickleball. Our business has seen an increase in apparel sales especially since our clothing allows players to perform at the highest level. The comfort of our performance fabrics and ideal fit allow for ultimate mobility so players can be on Cruise Control! We have seen a tremendous increase in players wanting an active lifestyle and tennis and pickleball go hand-in-hand and allow for this."
For more information about the APP 2023 New Jersey Open coming to Avalon this week and to buy tickets to see the pros in action, you can visit their official webpage here.