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Pickleball Is Overtaking Kickball as the Recreational Outlet of Choice in Washington, D.C.

by Jason Flamm on

It doesn't quite have the drama, dragons, or a young Jason Momoa as 'Khal Drago,' but a different type of Game of Thrones is playing out in Washington, D.C.

For 20-somethings in our nation's capital, kickball has been sitting alone in the throne room for decades and is now about to be supplanted by pickleball.

Pickleball demand is "just wild"

Volo, a social sports league, reports a 1,450 percent increase in D.C. pickleball participants between September 2022 and May 2023.

When pickleball slots opened for a three-day event on the National Mall last September, they were snatched up in minutes.

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Daniel Baynham, a managing director at Volo, says he's never seen such a surge of interest in his career. "The demand is just wild."

Baynham explains that pickleball's popularity stems from its easy learning curve, affordable equipment, and less of a physical toll on participants, making it a hit across generations.

Kickball is still holding on ... for now

According to Baynham, kickball is still more technically popular in the area. However, that's mostly due to team size limits and local infrastructure.

Only four people can play pickleball at a time, whereas kickball teams can be huge. Plus, all you need for kickball is a field, but finding a pickleball court is a challenge. "The demand versus the supply in D.C. is still way off," says Baynham.

"If I had 30 pickleball courts next to 30 kickball fields, I know pickleball would be filled," Baynham says.

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Court space is limited

Even with a surge in courts across the country, many areas are struggling to add enough courts to fill demand. The limited number of pickleball courts in D.C. has led to tension, as pickleball players have clashed with tennis or basketball players for space.

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In May, a standoff at Marie Reed Elementary School between a basketball player and Volo staff got so heated that the cops were called.

NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) conflicts are also brewing, like a fight in Arlington over proposed courts.

D.C. is working to appease local pickleballers and build new courts. Last year, the mayor allocated $750,000 to convert underutilized tennis courts into pickleball courts.

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D.C.'s Department of Parks and Recreation is currently selecting sites and finding a contractor. Meanwhile, companies like Kraken and Dill Dinkers are cashing in by building fancy facilities with courts for rent as well as clinics.

Jason Flamm

Jason Flamm

Jason is a writer from St. Louis. He’s been a coach in several sports and is currently working on his pickleball coaching certification. He loves to teach and share his passions.

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