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Pickleball grows in popularity in Maine

Pickleball is described as a cross between ping pong, badminton, tennis, and table tennis.

MAINE, USA — According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, Pickleball was the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. in 2019 and 2021Pickleball grew by 39.3% in those two years to more than 4.8 million participants nationwide. 

There are many places to play in Maine and websites to tell you where the nearest Pickleball courts are to you. A few include, 

“We’ve seen steady growth with pickleball. On any given day we have anywhere between four and 36 players at a time, so it’s definitely one of our biggest adult fitness offerings.” Madeleine Hicks, administrator registrar for Brunswick Parks and Recreation, said. 

The Brunswick Recreation Center offers indoor pickleball courts and has plans to expand with outdoor courts by fall 2023. 

Pickleball player, Sam White, said she started and learned how to play pickleball at the Brunswick Rec Center before playing at Pegasus Courts, a nearby outdoor court in the Brunswick Landing. 

“The fact that you can come here. You don’t have to have a partner. You don’t have to have an appointment. You just know that they’re playing from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. every day, and you can just come over and put your paddle down and come up play when it’s your turn,” Sam White said. 

Pegasus Courts started as a tennis court for the U.S. Navy, but after being abandoned for 10 years, the community stepped up to renovate it. 

“What you’re seeing right now is four years of volunteer efforts to renovate a tennis court into six primary pickleball courts,” John Coray, pickleball ambassador for the Midcoast Maine Pickleball Club, said.  

Coray said there are over 550 email members in the club and over 330 people that paid dues. 

“So we have 330 actively playing here in the Midcoast region, and we’ve grown 100% in one year. It’s not going to stop. It’s going to continue to grow in Maine and continue to grow in the United States,” Coray said. 

For beginners, plenty of places offer lessons, like Pickleball Maine at Foreside Fitness and Tennis in Falmouth and South Portland Parks and Recreation. 

“The sport serves everybody. No matter what level you are, everybody has an opportunity to play.” Wayne St. Peter, director and founder of Pickleball Maine, said.  

St. Peter has been teaching tennis for over 30 years and has been teaching pickleball for the last five years. 

The rise in pickleball was so significant that St. Peter had 28 straight sold-out classes since summer 2021 with classes as big as 80 people. 

“I think the most exciting part about pickleball is the social aspect of it. The camaraderie with people. Meeting people. Going out there and having fun. At a certain level, it becomes competitive like any sport. And everybody keeps score at some level, but at the same time, people can come out and play. And they walk away feeling good about themselves," St. Peter said. 

Brittany Kim is a pickleball player at the South Portland Community Center and was introduced to the sport through a simple invitation to play. 

“I just saw a group of people playing, and they were like, ‘Oh, are you here for pickleball?’ and I go, ‘No, I’m here for basketball.’” Kim said. “They’re like, ‘You should try it sometime,’ and I go, ‘Yeah, I’m down for it.’ So I tried it, and I got addicted. I just kept playing, and now I play typically Monday through Friday sometimes even Saturday or Sundays.” 

“You can see it every year, how many people come in to play pickleball and ask questions about it," Whitney Dorsett, recreation manager for South Portland Recreation Center, said. 

“I get emails and calls. And because it’s growing so fast, we started our beginner lesson program because there were so many people coming into our drop-ins that had never played and just needed a little bit more education so they could come in and feel comfortable to play,” Dorsett said.  

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