Regional pickleball tournament with 400 players descends on St. George

ST. GEORGE — The USA Pickleball Association West Regional Tournament came to Utah for the first time on Friday and Saturday, with over 400 players from across the western United States descending on the Little Valley Pickleball courts in St. George to vie for a shot at the tournament championship.

Competitors playing pickleball at the USA Pickleball Association West Regional Tournament held in St. George, Utah, April 15-16, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Competitors playing pickleball at the USA Pickleball Association West Regional Tournament held in St. George, Utah, April 15-16, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

The sound of paddles connecting with plastic balls filled the air around the Little Valley Sports Complex on a warm Saturday morning as hundreds of players young, old and in between competed singly or in pairs for a shot at a medal. Family members and spectators watched from lawn chairs and bleachers.

Bob Klarich, co-director of the tournament, said not only is the regional tournament being held at the Little Valley courts this year, but for the next three years as well.

“The reason is, Little Valley courts are the best public courts in the country,” Klarich said. “A lot of people may not know that, but these are very, very special. There’s a lot of them, they’re well designed, they’re well lit and this is a perfect place to have a pickleball tournament.”

Tournament co-director Sharon Sacco holds the USA Pickleball Association Medals to be awarded at the conclusion of the West Regional Tournament held in St. George, Utah, April 15-16, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Tournament co-director Sharon Sacco holds the USA Pickleball Association Medals to be awarded at the conclusion of the West Regional Tournament held in St. George, Utah, April 15-16, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

According to the pamphlet produced by the St. George and Zion Area Tourism Office, the Little Valley Pickleball Complex is the largest public complex of its type in the nation, boasting 24 courts in a single location. There are 80 pickleball courts in Washington County, with over 50 of those courts publicly available.

Sharon Sacco, co-director of the tournament, said while the tournament was for the western region of the USA Pickleball Association — California, Hawaii, Nevada and Utah — there were also players from Colorado and Arizona as well.

Players compete in categories defined by both skill levels and age groups.

According to the USA Pickleball Association, the three age groups are Juniors (ages 18 and under), Adults (ages 18-49) and Seniors (ages 50 and older). Each age group then has a skill rating beginning at 2.5 and ending at 5.0 with half-steps in between. There are separate classifications for both men and women, although there are mixed double tiers as well.

Similar to the St. George Marathon, competitors who finish in first, second or third place at the tournament receive medals made from native sandstone, Klarich said.

“The medals here, they are exceptional,” Klarich said. “It’s one thing that the players have really said ‘wow, this is so cool.'”

Pickleball supplies available at a vendor's booth at the USA Pickleball Association West Regional Tournament held in St. George, Utah, April 15-16, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News
Pickleball supplies available at a vendor’s booth at the USA Pickleball Association West Regional Tournament held in St. George, Utah, April 15-16, 2016 | Photo by Don Gilman, St. George News

Since the West Regional Tournament is an officially sanctioned event, top competitors from the tournament may advance to the USA Pickleball Association Finals scheduled to take place at Palm Creek – Casa Grande, Arizona, in November. The association keeps track of player rankings throughout the year.

Sid Stevens and his wife were on their way home to Toronto, Ontario, from their winter “snowbird” home just outside of Phoenix, Arizona, and decided to stop and play in the tournament.

“We’ve never been to Utah, really enjoyed the area, and really enjoyed the tournament,” Stevens said.

Friends introduced Stevens to pickleball, he said. Before he and his wife began playing pickleball, they played tennis five or six days per week. Now they play tennis once a month and play pickleball four or five days a week.

“It’s a fun sport, obviously as you age it’s a little easier on your body,” Stevens said.

Resources

  • USA Pickleball Association Website
  • City of St. George pickleball page

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Email: dgilman@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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