The House of Pickleball that Brunswick County Built
I had never heard of pickleball until I moved to Brunswick County, where pickleball is all the rage.
I was curious about the game, but even more curious about the name. It conjured up all kinds of intriguing images, so I had to see it for myself. After witnessing pickleball firsthand, I decided it was a hodgepodge of a few pastimes — a combination of tennis, badminton and whiffle ball, which are all fun games.
According to pickleball lore, the game was created in 1965 by Joel Pritchard, a Washington state congressman, and his pal Bill Bell. Their kids were bored one afternoon, so the two wrangled together some Ping-Pong paddles and a whiffle ball and made use of an abandoned badminton court in an attempt to create some familial harmony and keep the little ones entertained. It proved to be an entertaining activity for the entire family.
Interest in the game grew, and by the 1980s the USAPA (United States of America Pickleball Association) was formed. By 1990 it was being played in each of the 50 states. The sport, played with a modified tennis net, perforated ball and paddles a bit larger than Ping-Pong paddles, is scored on a point system and can be played in round-robin fashion.
An explosion in pickleball popularity has occurred in the Cape Fear and Brunswick County areas over the last several years.
“When my wife and I retired and relocated from Wilmington in 2014, there were less than 20 pickleball players in Brunswick Forest and almost none anywhere else in the Cape Fear region,” says Richard Holloman, a Leland resident. But at Brunswick Forest the Hollomans began to see an upswing in people’s interest in pickleball.
“Brunswick Forest Pickleball Club currently has membership of more than 510 players,” Holloman says. “Fifteen of the communities in Brunswick County currently have more than 1,600 pickleball members. The overall Cape Fear region is one of the five most densely populated pickleball areas in the world. The larger areas are Arizona, Florida, Oregon/Washington and Utah.”
Holloman and a group of Leland residents recognized the niche as well as the need for a facility that would cater to the increasing numbers of avid players. And after an arduous, three-year effort he and handful of local investors are finally seeing the execution of that vision. A new, state-of-the-art pickleball facility is being erected right here in North Brunswick County, 1 mile south of Brunswick Forest’s main entrance on Kay Todd Road off Highway 17.
Dubbed The HOP, an acronym for House of Pickleball, the facility is privately owned and, contrary to popular belief, not a Brunswick Forest amenity.
“It was built with private money and will be available to the public,” says Holloman, who is the managing director of the facility.
Site work on the property began last December, and the facility is projected to open in July of this year. Indoor pickleball facilities are a new concept because a majority of courts are either outdoors or dedicated to other sports but alternatively being used for pickleball play. There are no other indoor pickleball facilities comparable to the HOP in this area or in the eastern part of the United States.
The HOP will be a world-class pickleball facility containing six multi-colored indoor courts with a granular rubberized cushion, similar to the Tennis US Open, Pickleball US Open in Naples and indoor tennis courts at Duke University and Wake Forest University, Holloman says.
The floor is the centerpiece of the HOP. “It will provide great comfort to the hips, knees, ankles and feet of our growing senior population,” Holloman says.
While there are a few facilities that have revamped old buildings to house a few covered courts, there are only two in the world that would compare with the HOP — the ChickenNpickle (four indoor courts) in Kansas City and Pickleball Zone (eight indoor courts under construction) in Bend, Oregon.
On completion the facility will boast more than 14,000 square feet, ample room to host community events and private parties. It will include 2,040 square feet of lobby area, restrooms and storage in the front of the facility. The back area will include another 12,000 square feet devoted to playing areas. The entire facility will be climate controlled and lit with LED lighting. The facility will be open to the public by offering daily play rates as well as memberships. For convenience, courts will be able to be reserved online by any member of the public.
Pickleball is a sport for all ages and can be learned somewhat quickly. It’s an extremely social sport with an edge of competitiveness. As a public facility, the HOP will serve as a sporting center as well as a source of connectedness for the community at large.
“I envision local community fund-raising events taking place at the HOP,” says Holloman, who feels the space will be perfect to celebrate birthdays in the spacious lobby, followed by a few rounds of pickleball. He also visualizes the facility as a space to hold company team-building retreats, intercommunity events and local, regional or national tournaments. “It will have a very positive economic impact to the Town of Leland,” he predicts, “with guests from across the U.S. and other countries coming to participate in tournaments and special events.”
For those new to the sport and a desire to learn, Leland is home to eight of the 255 certified IPTPA (International Pickleball Teaching Professional Association) instructors in the world. “These instructors have been instrumental in the growth of pickleball in the local area,” Holloman says. With training being a significant component of the HOP, everyone from elementary students to active seniors can learn to enjoy the game of pickleball and connect with other residents within the community.
I now have a better understanding of pickleball and have seen the joy and camaraderie it brings to players. I’m convinced that the HOP is destined to become a social hub for community interaction and connectedness.
Want to visit the House of Pickleball (HOP)?
115 Kay Todd Road, Leland