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What’s all the excitement about pickleball…and what in the world is it?

Are you asking yourself, “What in the world is pickleball?” No, pickleball isn’t the name of a rare round pickle and it isn’t a giant pickle-shaped inflatable ball. Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the U.S. This national game craze has skyrocketed to popularity with people of all ages and is especially popular with those 55 and better.

Pickleball began as a happy accident. It was invented in 1965 at Bainbridge Island, Washington at the home of Congressman Joel Pritchard on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Pritchard and his friends Barney McCallum and Bill Bell were looking for something to entertain their children and couldn’t find the badminton shuttlecock.

Photos via Pickleballcentral.com

Determined in their quest for a fun activity for the kids, the friends pulled out the table tennis paddles and a wiffle ball, lowered the net on the badminton court, and developed the rules during play. And, voilà, pickleball was born!  

Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball — similar to a wiffle ball — over a net.

Minto Communities has been ahead of the curve on the pickleball front from the early emergence of pickleball to its becoming one of the nation’s most popular sports. Minto anticipated the growing popularity of pickleball based on the company’s ongoing research and feedback from homeowners. “We have been including pickleball courts in our new communities for some time, including our 55-and-better Latitude Margaritaville communities,” says Minto President Mike Belmont. 

Latitude Margaritaville 55-and-better communities each have 10 lighted pickleball courts.

In 2016, Minto joined with Collier County, Florida community leaders to bring the inaugural US Open Pickleball Championships (USOPC) to Naples, Florida. Minto became the title sponsor of the hugely successful event, and that partnership continues today. In 2019, Minto recruited global lifestyle brand Margaritaville — Minto’s partner in developing the enormously successful Latitude Margaritaville communities — to become a major sponsor.

Today, the annual event is billed as the Minto US Open Pickleball Championships Powered by Margaritaville. Now the largest pickleball tournament in the world, the USOPC event takes place at the East Naples Community Park every spring. The 2022 USOPC will take place April 23-April 30.

Minto US Open Pickleball Championships Powered by Margaritaville held annually in Naples is the largest pickleball tournament in the world.

Minto’s The Isles of Collier Preserve community in Naples, Florida was the first residential community to partner with the USOPC to present a world-class pickleball instruction program exclusively for residents. The program includes beginner lessons, private lessons, small group lessons and group clinics.

The Isles of Collier Preserve is adjacent and connected by a gate to East Naples Park where the USOPC is held in world-class pickleball facilities. According to USOPC founder and President Terri Graham, “Minto’s Bill Bullock led the way in promoting pickleball and the US Open Pickleball Championships.  He saw our vision and we joined forces. The partnership has been beneficial to both parties and to the greater community. People came to Naples and, in essence, never left!  Many homes have been sold to pickleball enthusiasts who visited Naples to attend the US OPEN.  They took the tour at The Isles of Collier Preserve and fell in love with the community. The bonus was to have the US OPEN headquarters right next door.” 

In addition to the community’s many luxury resort-style amenities, The Isles of Collier Preserve has eight pickleball courts.   Latitude Margaritaville communities in Daytona Beach, FL and Hilton Head, SC have 10 pickleball courts each, and there are also 10 courts planned for Latitude Margaritaville Watersound. All have lighting for night play to accommodate the large number of resident pickleball enthusiasts.  

The Isles of Collier Preserve in Naples, FL has eight pickleball courts

The Isles of Collier Preserve has its own pickleball club and residents compete in area tournaments regularly. Resident Fay Myers plays in area tournaments with her pickleball partner Ray Mohr. “It’s wonderful to see new people coming in and picking up their paddles to play pickleball. It’s good for all ages. I have granddaughters who play,” she notes.

The Isles of Collier Preserve residents and pickleball partners Ray Mohr and Fay Myers often play in area tournaments.

Latitude Margaritaville communities also have growing groups of pickleball enthusiasts. Latitude Margaritaville Daytona Beach resident Mary Burns says that when she and husband Richard discovered Latitude Margaritaville, they liked everything about the active adult community. She recalls telling Richard, “If they have pickleball courts, I’m in!”  Mary is a professional pickleball player who plays competitively in Daytona and is now the official Latitude Margaritaville pickleball pro for the community.

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