ST. GEORGE — Marking huge gains in popularity, the United States of American Pickleball Association’s Mountain Region tournament is expecting an increase in participation by more than 30 percent as tournament play begins Thursday at the Little Valley Pickleball Complex.
The only public outdoor complex in the country with 24 courts, the Little Valley courts are equipped with lighting for night play, a sound system with speakers and stadium-style seating on select courts. Approximately 640 players are expected for the three-day tournament – a significant boost from the 480 who participated a year ago.
“Last year, for the first time, we had a follow-up survey of all the players regarding what they thought of the 2017 regional. Overwhelmingly, the survey told us the players loved the tournament and the surrounding area and said they would be back,” tournament director Bob Klarich said. “Not only are they coming back, but they are bringing a lot of their friends.”
Pickleball has emerged as one of the fastest growing sports in the nation. Similar to tennis yet easier on the elbows and knees, pickleball is played on a smaller court with a paddle that is shorter and lighter than a tennis racket.
“The event is run by volunteers who love the sport of pickleball — one of the few tournaments still run by an all-volunteer group,” Klarich said. “Also, this is one of the few large tournaments held in St. George where every match is officiated.”
The age groups for the upcoming tournament are: 19-49, 50-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-79 and 80 and older.
“It is so exciting to host the regionals for the third consecutive year, which is a testament to the dedication of the pickleball buffs in our area, as well as the natural beauty and sunshine of our region,” Kevin Lewis, the Washington County director of tourism said. “The St. George area has been in the forefront of the pickleball craze for many years. The buzz that this sport creates locally is felt in dramatic ways by out-of-town visitors.”
Registration is closed. Information on the tournament can be found here.