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Pickleball Goes Pro: Investors Bet Big on the Sport’s Growing Popularity

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Pickleball, once considered a low-stakes game primarily enjoyed in retirement villages, is now experiencing a remarkable surge in popularity and professional recognition. With notable investors, skyrocketing participant numbers, and substantial financial backing, pickleball is poised to reshape the sporting industry. This article explores the game’s evolution, the influential figures behind its rise, and the potential it holds for future growth.

Originally conceived as a children’s game in 1965, pickleball has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years. Its newfound appeal has attracted high-profile enthusiasts such as LeBron James and Eva Longoria, who have contributed to a 159% increase in participants since 2020, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.

The involvement of renowned figures has played a significant role in pickleball’s ascent. Tom Brady’s impassioned video endorsement and LeBron James’ announcement of acquiring the New York Hustler’s team both led to substantial boosts in social media followers for the sport. These influential figures recognize the potential that pickleball holds and have become key investors and ambassadors for the game.

Pickleball’s popularity is not only transforming the sporting landscape but also impacting urban planning and real estate. Wollman Rink in New York City’s Central Park, in collaboration with CityPickle, has introduced 14 courts to cater to the growing demand. Real estate developers are now incorporating pickleball courts into their projects to attract buyers, indicating the sport’s expanding influence beyond recreational spaces.

Major League Pickleball, under the interim leadership of Brian Levine, a former partner at Goldman Sachs, launched in 2021 with a substantial $5 million prize pool. This significant investment highlights the belief that pickleball has the potential to become a prominent professional sport. Investors like Marc Lasry, who purchased a pickleball franchise for $100,000, have witnessed the value of their investments soar to $10 million within a short span of time. Media giants CBS and ESPN have also recognized the sport’s growing appeal and secured TV deals with the Association of Pickleball Professionals, ensuring increased exposure and potential growth.

One of the reasons behind pickleball’s increasing popularity lies in its broad appeal. The sport caters to a wide age range, attracting participants from eight to eighty-eight years old. Unlike high-impact sports that may cause physical strain over time, pickleball offers a more sustainable and inclusive option for individuals of varying fitness levels.

Pickleball’s ascent from a modest game played in retirement villages to a professional sport on the verge of a breakthrough is a testament to its growing influence and appeal. With celebrity endorsements, substantial investments, and media attention, pickleball is experiencing an unprecedented surge in popularity. As the sport continues to attract players and capture the attention of investors, it is poised to reshape the sporting industry and inspire future generations of athletes and enthusiasts alike.

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