Pickleball Facility Expansion Coming to Scio Twp
By Matt Jensen, STN Reporter
You’ve likely heard of the new phenomenon sweeping across lawn-sports enthusiasts and serious athletes alike: Pickleball!
The simple sport has gained a massive fanbase and two local pickleball enthusiasts, Christy Howden and Leslie White, have joined forces to meet the rising demand with plans for a 17,500 square-foot recreational facility on Metty Drive in Scio Twp featuring pickleball—Wolverine Pickleball.
“Our passion is to create a space where people feel seen and welcomed, where they can have fun and engage in the health and social benefits that pickleball offers while connecting to a vibrant community!” says Co-Founder Chisty Howden.
A wild melange of every racquet sport, the upstart game has found a home in everyday spaces all the way through professional sport’s glitterati. Played with paddles in a smaller version of a Tennis court, Pickleball has rules reminiscent of Raquetball, Ping-Pong, and Badminton.
The sport was founded in 1965 by friends who were creating a game for their kids and slowly gained traction through the decades until it hit mainstream attention in 1990, when it had accumulated adherents in all 50 states. It now boasts celebrity advocates like retired NFL Quarterback Drew Brees, NBA star Lebron James, and entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.
While the sport initially gained its devoted audience in “snowbird” and retirement communities, it has made the jump from the Arizona Senior Olympics in 2001 to have an estimated 3.3 million players in 2019. While one might imagine the Covid pandemic would put a stop to its rapid growth, Pickleball bounced on, becoming the fastest-growing sport in the United States in both 2021 and 2022, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. There are now close to 5 million players.
That kind of growth can strain any sport’s infrastructure, and as one might guess, a potential roadblock to its continued growth is the lack of Pickleball courts for new players to learn and play on. That’s where the dynamic duo of Christy Howden and Leslie White come in. Interestingly, their story correlates with the inventors of Pickleball. The women met while providing entertainment for their children at Volleyball events, and their connection was instant. Not only were they Moms and sports enthusiasts, but they also loved Pickleball too!
Putting their business acumen together, these women identified a joint venture that would capitalize on the massive influx of new Pickleball enthusiasts and their mutual desire to have more space to play. And while they were at it, why not provide all the other things they felt were missing from the sport? After combining their interests and business experience, they added a dash of friendship and decided to create Wolverine Pickleball with a primary goal in mind.
While this collaboration initially blossomed in 2020, this fall and winter, they will be working to open a much larger iteration of their vision. Opening in the summer of 2023, the new Wolverine Pickleball facility will house 12 full-size Pickleball courts. The outdoor space will offer four bocce ball courts, six sand volleyball courts, cornhole, ladder ball, and other outdoor games. Amenities will include a sporting goods shop, lockers, showers, a dining lounge, space for food trucks, and a full bar. Wolverine Pickleball plans to continue hosting private and public events, with the expansion making pop-up and catered events possible.
“Pickleball is quick to learn!” Christy Howden says. “A one-hour lesson is all you need to find out if you love it, which we bet you will. It's also a great team bonding event or event for a group of friends to try together.”
If you are curious to learn more about hosting your own Pickleball party, you don’t have to wait for the new facility! Their current location has resources you can use in the meantime. Start by visiting their website: wolverinepickleball.com. You can register to play, become a member, find resources for new or advanced players, and check out their goods and services in the Pickleball Shop.