Professional pickleball takes over Golden Peak Pickleball Center this weekend
World's top 2 pickleball players among the 275 competitors in Vail
The Vail Pickleball Open started in 2017 as an amateur three-day tournament featuring 80 players. In its second year, it nearly doubled in size. This year, close to 300 pickleballers will be descending on the Golden Peak Pickleball Center for a six-day tournament, this year including a professional division.
The field includes about 80% of its participants coming from out of town, said tournament director Jerry Stevens, with players coming from 18 states and three countries competing in age groups up to 70 and older.
The Vail Pickleball Open kicked off earlier in the week with amateur divisions. This weekend, the pros take to the courts. The Vail Pickleball Open is free to attend.
“Whether people know anything about pickleball or not, it’s fun to watch,” Stevens said. “It’s a great opportunity to see some of the top players in the world play, both men and women.”
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The action this weekend is USA Pickleball Association sanctioned and includes some of the top players in the world, including Ben Johns and Kyle Yates, last year’s U.S. Open men’s pro doubles winners.
There’s some money on the line in the pro divisions as well, with over $10,000 in prize purses available.
Vail Pickleball Open schedule
- Friday: Women’s pro doubles
- Saturday: Men’s pro doubles
- Sunday: Mixed pro doubles
Pickleball on the rise
In 2016, the year before the Vail Pickleball Open made its debut, the town of Vail built the Golden Peak Pickleball Center. The space had been used for two tennis courts for 35 years. Now, it features six dedicated pickleball courts — not shared with tennis or other sports.
The area includes restrooms and seating areas, as well as expanded seating for the tournament.
“It’s definitely growing, particularly in July and August,” Stevens said of the local pickleball community. “These courts are packed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. We have drop-in play every morning from 8:30 to 12:30 and 4 to 7, and in between we give lessons and clinics, we have junior camps and people can reserve the courts for their own use.”
Wedding groups and birthday parties have rented out the courts, Stevens said.
“It’s a great, fun activity for private groups,” he said. “I think it’s one of the most consistently used facilities in the town.”
At the drop-ins at the Golden Peak Pickleball Center, Vail Rec District staff are on hand to pair up people of similar skill levels, making for competitive games. It also offers a complimentary introduction for those new to the sport and provides demo paddles and balls.
“It’s a full-service program,” Stevens said. “It’s been the fastest growing sport in the country for several years. I think it’s so popular because all ages and different skill levels can have fun playing.
“The tournament has grown every year, just like pcikleball has grown in the valley,” he said.
For more information about the Golden Peak Pickleball Center in Vail, visit http://www.vailrec.com.
The Golden Peak Pickleball Center is located across from the Golden Peak Ski School in Vail. There is limited parking at the courts, but the Vail Village parking structure is located less than a five minute walk from the Golden Peak Pickleball center.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.