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The league will feature the world’s 32 best male and female players across eight mixed teams and will start at Dreamland, 2770 US-290, in a tournament dubbed the Pritchard Cup (named after pickleball founder Joel Pritchard) on November 5. 8. The grand prize will be $ 150,000, almost the biggest prize pool in pickleball history.
For professional pickleballer Jesse Irvine, the new league is a chance to return to the field after injuries prevented her from playing professional tennis.
“When I first started playing pickleball I was a little skeptical at first, but once I started playing I immediately hooked up,” Irvine told Austonia when the sport was announced. of the major league. “I enjoy the sport because it gave me that second chance, and I think there are a lot of players who feel the same… it’s good for your soul, it’s just a great sport all around.”
Jesse Irvine discovered a love for pickleball as an adult after playing tennis at a younger age. (Claire Partain / Australia)
The league has prominent Austin personalities behind it, including founder Steve Kuhns, owner of Dreamland and Richard’s Rainwater bottled water company; and President Mellie Price, a renowned entrepreneur and professor at the University of Texas at Austin, who founded Front Gate Tickets before it was purchased by C3 Entertainment and C3 Events.
“The launch of Major League Pickleball is a proud moment for everyone in the pickleball community,” said Kuhn. “I fell in love with pickleball six years ago and ever since I started playing I have dreamed of creating an elite level pickleball league … Equally important to me, MLP will bring new people into our game. sport. Pickleball inspires joy, passion and a true love of the game among all who pick up a paddle, and MLP will introduce the sport to new audiences, helping to build a long, healthy and sustainable future for our sport. . “
Other famous people involved in the leadership process include former American professional tennis player Jenny Klitch, who will serve as team commissioner and pickleball and marketing professional Dave Fleming as brand ambassador. . Austin City Limits co-founders Charles Attal and Charlie Walker; podcaster and researcher Brené Brown; former world number 4 male tennis player James Blake; and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry will also be part of the eight-member group of team owners.
If you’re late to the pickleball scene, the sport is a mix between ping pong, badminton, and tennis played on an indoor or outdoor badminton court with a lightly fitted tennis net. Paddles are specific to pickleball but look like ping pong paddles, and a wiffleball-like pickleball is used to play the game.
While pickleball has become a leading sport for older people looking to be active, it is now embraced by people of all ages who can agree on one thing: Once you start, you can’t. the more you stop.
Professional pickleballer Irina Tereschenko boils down to a few factors: it’s easy to learn, easy on the joints, and easy to form friendships on and off the pitch.
“You may have no racquet sports experience, or any athletic experience for that matter, walk the field and play within 20 minutes,” Tereschenko said. “And it’s exhilarating. People say after playing for the first time they get hooked, and that’s a fact.”
Austin has an appetite for pickleball with venues like Dreamland, which is home to three live professional pickleballers, Austin Pickle Ranch, the world’s largest pickleball courts slated to open in late 2021, and popular hangouts like Bouldin Acres that showcase the growing sport. Now, the city will play a key role in elevating the “world’s fastest growing sport,” according to The Economist, in a familiar name.
Operations manager Brooks Wiley, who has been to the pickleball field several times since first hearing about the sport from Kuhns himself a few years ago, said the pickleball community was already well established in Austin.
“Austin is a very outdoor lifestyle community,” said Wiley. “Whether you are going out in the lake, paddle boarding or running… and also just the community. I have friends that I met through pickleball who were business associates and who are now my friends. legitimate with whom I go on vacation with. “
Following Tuesday’s official launch, the first league draft will be broadcast live in Rockwall, northeast of Dallas, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, October 1. Four players will be selected to participate in the inaugural tournament from November 5 to 8 in the women’s and men’s singles and doubles and mixed doubles competitions.
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