Need something to do in Beer City USA July 12-15?  Look no further than Belknap Park (30 Coldbrook St. NE) for the first-ever Beer City Open Pickleball Championships, when 400 amateur and pro pickleball players will descend on Grand Rapids from across the United States plus other countries such as Brazil and Russia.  This sold-out tournament unites the best players in the world (including the top female pickleball athlete, hailing from Naples, Fla.) to compete for both pride and $12,000 in cash prizes. Additionally, sprinkled around the pro draws are local, Midwest, and national players of all ages and abilities competing right next to the game’s best. 

Since not everyone may be familiar with pickleball, I thought I’d answer some questions as we prepare for this new tournament.

What is pickleball?

Pickleball is a paddle sport for all ages and skill levels, using elements of tennis, racquetball and ping pong.  It can be played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court using a modified tennis net. Similar to tennis, you can play pickleball as doubles or singles.

Pickleballer competing at Meijer State Games - Summer Games

Are pickles involved?

Nope! There is a bit of a debate about the name origin. One story is that the wife of the founder of the sport, Joel Pritchard, started calling it pickleball because “the combination of different sports reminded me of the pickle boat in crew where oarsmen were chosen from the leftovers of other boats.” The other story is that the game is named after the founder’s dog, Pickles. Either way, it’s a catchy name!

Just how popular is pickleball?

Pickleball is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States, boasting more than 2.5 million participants annually.  According to the United States Pickleball Association (USPA), the official governing body of the sport in the United States, there are more than 15,000 indoor and outdoor courts in the United States, with all 50 states represented. The organization has seen a 480 percent increase in its membership over the past five years.

Pickleballer competing at Meijer State Games - Summer Games

Is it big in Michigan?

Absolutely! Michigan is the best cold-weather state for pickleball, and we are growing all the time. In fact, our tournament sold out, if that is any indication of the sport’s popularity here. A very popular vacation for pickleballers is to visit the Michigan lakeshore which has a high level of pickleball activity, lots of courts, and of course beautiful Michigan amenities in the summer. The Grand Rapids Pickleball Club alone has 600 members and 20-plus courts scattered throughout Kent County. And we have a strong showing for the sport annually at the Meijer State Games - Summer Games.

Why should I watch the Beer City Open?

If you don’t know anything about pickleball, the Beer City Open Pickleball Championships is a perfect place to check it out while watching some of the top athletes in the sport! Play begins Thursday, July 12 at 9 a.m., and Friday through Sunday at 8 a.m. Catch the final rounds Friday and Saturday beginning around 3 p.m. until 8 p.m.  Sunday’s final will take place between 1 and 5 p.m. If pickleball isn’t enough of a lure, indulge in a cold Perrin Brewing Co. craft beer at the West Michigan Sports Commission-run beer garden and delicious food from Grand Rapids food trucks. Beer and food trucks are available July 13 and 14 from 12 p.m. until dark.  Perrin is sponsoring the beer garden throughout the event.  Friday’s featured food truck is B.D.’s BBQ, and Saturday’s featured food truck is Righteous Cuisine (BBQ and Mexican fusion-inspired cuisine).  Sunday’s food offerings will include local hot dogs. 

How can I learn to play?

If you are interested in learning more about opportunities to play the game, check out the Grand Rapids Pickleball Club, which boasts more than 600 members and 20 outdoor courts throughout the county. 

Guest blogger Andrea Remynse Koop on the medal stand with partner Rich Karnes at the US Open of Pickleball in Naples, Fla.

We look forward to seeing you at the Beer City Open!

Andrea Remynse Koop
Guest Blogger
Andrea Remynse Koop is an attorney at Bosch Killman VanderWal, P.C and the co-tournament director of the Beer City Open Pickleball Championships July 12-15.

Latest Entries

The West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC) is partnering with Celebration Cinema to bring a new sport to West Michigan – and there’s a good chance you know very little about it.

As we prepare for 2020, I’d like to take a moment to review 2019 – it was another great year for youth and amateur sports in West Michigan!