(Left) Vivian Edwards of Colorado, Tyson McGuffin of Washington and Tyler Loong of Provo, battle it out last year in Brigham City’s Pickleball Tournament of Champions.
Event attracts nation and world’s top players
By Nancy Browne
The Tournament of Champions, one of the top three pickleball tournaments in the nation, is coming to Brigham City, Aug. 24-26, bringing with it a host of visitors who will spend money in our hotels, stores and restaurants.
This is the third year, out of its six-year history, that the tournament has been held at Brigham City’s 17-court pickleball complex near the community pool.
Some 450 players, both professional and amateur, will play in the event that attracts players from 30 states and even several countries.
Less than five percent of the players are from Utah. Local Brigham City player, Scott Clayson, who has won this tournament before, will participate along with other locals from Logan, Kaysville, Riverdale and Salt Lake.
The professionals will compete in 10 categories that include singles, doubles and seniors for both men and women and mixed doubles, and will split a prize of $55,000.
“Pickleball is exploding all over the world,” said Kyle Klein, president of Northern Utah Pickleball Club and tournament director. “In this tournament alone, I’ve already had to turn away almost 300 players because we are completely filled up.”
“Brigham City is known for this tournament,” he said. “This is literally the biggest national event hosted by our community and the impact that it has on the city is wonderful. These players will come and stay about five days and spend money in our city’s businesses.”
He estimated the financial impact the tournament would have on the community, which is bigger than last year by 25 percent, to be well over $100,000.
The event, which he predicts could easily double with added facilities, is getting so big that people stop in the city on their vacations to see the pickleball facility they’ve heard so much about.
He said it’s important for Brigham residents to come out and support the tournament as a way to keep it in the city because already other cities with their own courts are trying to snatch it away. He encouraged locals to bring their lawn chairs and coolers and be spectators cheering on their favorite players.
On any given day during the summer, most of the courts are humming with players, said Klein. “It’s a great sport for individuals and families which can be played by young and old alike because of its low impact.”
Klein gave a shout out to John Gullo, formerly of Ogden but now of St. George, as the man who really brought the sport to Brigham City and continues to contribute by donating to the prize pool.
Gullo had offered to work with Ogden City to build a pickleball park in Ogden three years ago that could host the tournament but when city officials declined, he made the same offer to Brigham, whose officials enthusiastically accepted.
Brigham City leased him the ground where the courts are located, after which Gullo built the courts and then donated them to the city.
“The social aspect of this game is just unbelievable,” said Gullo. “What other game is there where a 20-year-old can play toe to toe with a 70-year-old?”
His love for the game started on Nov. 1, 2008, when on a vacation in Puerto Rico, he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and had to have five bypasses. “After spending a year on treadmills and other boring stuff I saw a sign about pickleball and so I started playing. I lost a huge amount of weight and got healthy while having fun.”
Pickleball is becoming so prevalent it’s being considered for inclusion in the Olympics and the Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has made it a policy that meetinghouse gyms can be taped off and used as indoor pickleball courts.
Klein said the Northern Utah Pickleball Club also will host a six-day regional tournament in Brigham City with more than 600 participants.
He said because the sport is growing in Brigham City and tournaments fill up quickly, he hopes that city officials will consider expanding the complex with more courts.
Kristy Law, the city’s community activity services director, said the city will likely meet with Klein and the Northern Utah Pickleball Club sometime in September to discuss the possibility of expanding the courts.
“The growth of pickleball set us all back with how much participation and support we’re getting from the community,” she said in an interview. “We watched when this whole thing got started how it began as a senior sport but our 17 courts are full to capacity most of the time.”
She said she read a report from the USPA about a study done by a little town in Georgia that reported people who come to their community from out of town to play pickleball usually spend around $139 per person per day. Moreover, they spend about $160 per person per day during a tournament.
“If we turn that kind of money away, that would be a very bad thing,” said Law, who added Klein’s support and that of local business donations is fueling the possible need for more courts.
Box Elder News Journal
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