The Northwest Sports Hub in Centralia will play host to the world’s largest indoor pickleball tournament May 11-15 with the 2016 International Indoor Pickleball Championships.
The five-day event will feature singles, doubles and mixed doubles tournaments in various age groups, ranging from juniors to 75 years+, and skill levels from beginners (3.0) to advanced (4.5), as well as an open tournament, which will draw some of the sports top players (5.0).
An estimated 500 players are expected to participate with nearly 400 already registered. The tournament will start on Wednesday, May 11 at 8:30 a.m. with mixed doubles and women’s doubles.
“This would be a great tournament to watch if you had any interest in playing pickleball,” said Neal Renga of the Centralia Pickleball Club. “You will see how the game is played, especially when you watch the 5.0 players, which are the most skilled. When you watch them you’ll see a pretty good game. It’s almost like chess the way they play the net, waiting for the perfect shot. If someone is still interested after they see them play, they can come to us and we will teach them all about the rules and how to play.”
Renga, who has played the sport for 14 years, has seen membership in the recently formed Centralia Pickelball Club grow substantially over the past year, increasing from the original four members to around 30.
“We’re always looking for more numbers. Hopefully this tournament will get more people interested in playing,” Renga said. “I think a lot of it is just getting the word out that we have it here now. A lot of people used to play at the Lakewood Community Center. They have a great facility there, but that’s a long drive. So, we wanted to get something started here for the local people.”
In addition to the tournament, the International Indoor Pickleball Championships, which will be contested over 26 courts, will also provide beginner and advanced player clinics and a referee clinic during the event.
“Last year was a very good tournament,” Renga said. “It was great exposure for the sport and generated a lot of interest. I used to play tennis, but I dropped out once I started playing pickleball. Once you get playing this game, you get addicted to it.”
That was the case for Centralia Pickleball Club members Loren and Carrie George. The husband-and-wife duo will participate together in the mixed doubles event at the international tournament.
“I used to play volleyball. When we moved down (to Centralia) two years ago there just wasn’t a lot of opportunity here for women to play volleyball,” said Carrie. “Some of us are getting too old to play racquetball and we have different things going on with our bodies. So, we thought let’s play pickleball. We thought it would be an easier game (than racquetball), but it’s a tough sport. I love it though. It’s just a great sport for all levels. There’s people who can come in and play entry level. There’s a ladder to climb and for me being a competitive person, it’s the perfect sport.”
The Centralia Pickleball Club plays at the Centralia Thorbeckes Fitlife Center on Saturdays (8:00 – 10:30 a.m.) and Tuesdays and Thursdays (11:00 a.m. – 2:30 p.m.).
“We started with just enough people to play a game. It’s really grown since then,” Carrie said. “Thorbeckes became interested and bought the nets for us and lined the courts. We’re now to the point where we have time slots here. Before we were competing with the basketball players, asking if we could have a court, and now we get specific times. A lot of people just started playing this last year.”
“You see a lot of husband and wives play together who just want to be active,” continues Carrie. “I just think it’s a great sport for people who just want to get out and move.”
The club also hopes to add an outdoor playing schedule during the warmer months.
“We started playing outdoors last year out on Gold Street,” Carrie said. “There are some abandoned tennis courts out there. We modified the courts down and taped them off with duct tape and played over there all summer and now the city has taken that over and gave us permission to paint lines. We will be doing that soon. We’re hoping to get more people on board.”
To register for the 2016 International Indoor Pickleball Championships visit www.pickleballtournaments.com. The Northwest Sports Hub is located at 701 Allen Ave., Centralia, WA 98531.