On Monday, Collier County will decide how best to promote the Naples Pickleball Center Championship in February 2022, which is expected to bring the county around $500,000, largely to be invested in the tourism industry.
Collier County makes around $35 million per year in tourist development taxes, all paid by visitors. This tournament, with over 600 competitors, could prove a great source of revenue for both Collier County and Naples.
Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. More than 4 million Americans now play the game. And Collier County is debating on spending $100,000 to resurface the courts at East Naples Community Park, where there are 64 pickleball courts.
On Monday, the Collier County Tourist Development Council approved $7,500 to support the Naples Pickleball Championship in February.
“We actually reinvest that money, whether it is through facilities, beach renourishment or simply marketing the destination,” said Paul Beirnes, executive director of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitor Bureau. “And pickleball is just one of those many opportunities to keep the engine fueled, if you will, and well-oiled, driving further visitation.”
In April 2022, Collier County will host the U.S. Open pickleball championships, the single largest pickleball championship in North America. Naples leaders say the city is the pickleball capital of the world, which they feel is a sensational title to have.
“You know, bringing these events into town generates business to our local community, whether it’s hotels, whether it’s restaurants, retailers, it’s just a great opportunity to really elevate and generate incremental visitation to the destination,” Beirnes said.
Shelly Williams, of Collier County, said there is nothing like pickleball.
“The culture, it’s very inclusive, anyone can play,” Williams said.
Williams played a game with Julie Prochnow, who visits Collier County several times a year to watch the game.
“We actually plan to be here in the month of April just to come to the open and enjoy watching the professionals,” Prochnow, of Wisconsin, said.
Terri Graham is the co-founder of the U.S. Open Pickleball Championship.
“I think the identity in Collier county is pickleball,” Graham said. “Literally tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people come to Naples year round because of pickleball.”
For Beirnes, hopefully this means more jobs for people in the area.
“Just another layer of attracting more and more people to the destination,” Beirnes said.