HOLLY HILL, Fla. – In the same week as the Superbowl, it’s pickleball that is popular in Holly Hill.
The Association of Pickleball Professionals is getting ready to host over 1,100 players from around the country for a tournament in the small city nestled between Daytona Beach and Ormond Beach in Volusia County.
Players of all ages and abilities will fill the courts for singles, doubles and mixed doubles fields at Pictona, a top pickleball facility.
News 6 sat down with Deb Christensen, director of partnerships, as they prepared to host their first pro tournament Wednesday through Sunday.
“It’s like a dream, a pickleball dream,” said Deb Christensen, the director of partnerships at Pictona.
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Christensen said the facility opened in July 2020 with 24 courts. They’ve since expanded to 49 courts and have a stadium with seating for 1,200.
“Last fall, we just opened this facility Metro Health stadium,” Christensen said. “People are coming out, being social and getting to know each other.”
Rainer and Julie Martens founded the facility and have had a front row seat to the pickleball frenzy.
“It was just a sleepy little sport,” Julie Martens said. “People, mostly older adults 50 to 55, were playing, but the boom it’s seen recently is phenomenal.”
The Martens said most people picked up pickleball during the pandemic and have stuck around ever since.
“I think actually the pandemic for pickleball in a way was a blessing in the sense that people were feeling very isolated, they were staying at home, and then a lot of the facilities were opening up a bit to play and people came to Pictona and this was their happy place,” said Martens.
The city of Holly Hill has noticed the impact. City Manager Joseph Forte said the tournament this week will bring an added boost to the local economy.
“We’re bringing in about 1,200 players and their guests and their families that are coming into this area,” Forte said. “They’re bringing commerce, they’re spending their money, they’re improving our community. These tournaments are putting Holly Hill on the map.”
Crowds are now coming to the courts whenever they can for the competition and the social experience.
“There’s many times now, we’re actually full on every single court,” Christensen said.
“People like to play,” Rainer Martens said. “They’re closer to each other than they are in tennis for example, and so that social aspect of the whole thing keeps people coming back, and that’s what is going to keep it growing.”
Ed Greth said he plays almost every single day now. After spending time in Florida for months at time, he now plans to move to the state, so his hobby will be close to home.
“I’m making settlement on a house on Friday, like I’m moving here. This is like the Mecca for Pickleball.”
Tickets for the APP Daytona Beach Open are available and start at $15. Pro play begins Thursday, Feb. 9 with men’s and women’s pro singles. Livestream coverage begins Saturday, Feb. 11 on ESPN+. For more information, visit the website here.
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