COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)– Major League Pickleball is in Columbus this weekend as the city hosts the tournament with the league’s largest ever purse: $100,000.
The Columbus team, aptly named “The Bus” hopes to bring it home.
“I love our chances,” said team owner David Kass. “We made a couple of offseason moves between this event and the last one. We made a trade, and we have just an unbelievable group of players in terms of their character and also their abilities. We think this team is going to gel for this event and hopefully, the home team brings home the title.”
The tournament’s first round got underway Friday morning at Pickle and Chill on West Henderson Road. It’s a three-day event that pits 48 players on 12 MLP teams against each other. The finals get broadcasted live Sunday night on national TV.
Pickleball is described as a “mashup of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong,” and Forbes said it is the fastest-growing sport in America. The sport originated in the Pacific Northwest in the 1960s. And Cass, who is also the owner of the Pickle and Chill complex, says he doesn’t see the momentum slowing down.
“100% guarantee there will be NCAA teams, high school teams, junior high teams, women’s, men’s recreation teams… sooner than later, I think,” Kass said.
Columbus is ahead of the curve as one of the first 12 cities in the country to have an MLP team. Now, big names such as Tom Brady and LeBron James are getting in on a piece of the pie (or pickle?).
“When I first started playing 5-6 years ago, I would tell people, ‘Oh, I’ve been playing a little bit of pickleball,’ and they would kind of ignore it or be like, ‘I’ve never heard of it,'” said The Bus team member Wesley Burrows. “And now, I’m getting messages every day like, ‘Did you see Tom Brady bought a team? Did you see LeBron James is doing that? Isn’t this your sport? Isn’t this your league?'”
Kass adds that this momentum is not just for the pros, but for anyone looking to pick up a new activity.
“Men, women, kids… all levels, all ages, genders, etc. There’s a really low barrier for entry. All you need for $20. You can get a racket and a ball and go play,” Kass said.
This is Pickle and Chill’s first event as a pickleball venue. They are doing more renovations, Kass said, and plan to open to the public in November.
CLICK HERE for the tournament schedule and information on free tickets.