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Friday, March 24, 2017

Another Open Letter - to the Town of Fletcher

The best way to predict the future is to create it...

As I have previously written, I have renewed an emphasis on contacting local governments about pickleball facilties. This week I sent a letter to the leaders of Fletcher, NC as they plan the development of their new town center. The letter is shown below.

I was pleased to read the forward-thinking plans for Fletcher in the Gaston Gazette article The Heart of a Town. I am a Henderson County resident and am always looking for quality places to shop, dine, and recreate. 

This note is intended to plant a seed with regard to the recreation part of the plan as mentioned in a more recent Times-News article - State of Community: County, municipalities look to future. A forward-looking plan like yours must consider the recreational activities that residents will demand in the future and minimize legacy sports that are fading. There is a sport that fits that criteria but has been largely ignored in western North Carolina. That sport is pickleball:

  • Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America with an estimated 2.5 million players in 2015
  • That growth is reflected in Henderson County. It was reported in the Times-News article Pickleball’s popularity grows in Henderson County that the number of players at the Henderson County Athletic and Activity Center has grown from 20 to 150 in 4 years. An additional 50+ players compete at Xcel Sportsplex near Fletcher and two of those players are national champions.
  • The demographics of players in the USA is dominated by retirees with 66% of players 60+ years of age. The younger age groups are rapidly developing as professional tournaments are growing but are still in their infancy.
  • The Henderson County demographics are even more skewed toward retirees due to the lack of court time in the evening hours after school and work.
  • Retirees looking for a permanent residence and vacationers looking for a temporary place to visit are seeking vibrant pickleball communities, especially in an area like Henderson County with its focus on outdoors activities.

Pickleball is a racquet sport played on a tennis-like court but is only 1/3 a tennis court’s size. It is played with a perforated plastic ball similar to a wiffle ball and paddles similar to ping-pong paddles. It can be played indoors or outdoors and is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players. In addition, the game has developed a passionate following due to its friendly, social nature, and its multi-generational appeal.

Western North Carolina is rapidly losing an opportunity to take advantage of pickleball’s growth from a tournament perspective. Tournaments exist nearly every weekend in the Southeast from spring through fall. Mountain communities in North Georgia have built multi-use indoor facilities as well as dedicated outdoor pickleball complexes to host tournaments and accommodate residents. Tournaments typically have 200-300 players, many of whom will spend the weekend in hotels as well as dine and shop at local businesses. 

Pickleball is governed by the USA Pickleball Association (, which maintains the rules, promotes the sport, sanctions tournaments, and provides player rankings. I am a volunteer ambassador that represents the USAPA in Henderson County. My primary role is to grow the sport. The lack of local facilities has limited its growth. This is definitely a case of “build it and they will come”. 

Again, I applaud your master planning efforts. With a background in corporate planning, I can appreciate the need for a long-term vision and the effort required make it happen.  I would encourage you to consider pickleball among the facilities in your growth plan. I am confident that research would show it to benefit your community. My contact information is below if you have any questions.

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