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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 11, 2015 6 years ago

The US Open comes to Naples

For the first time ever, the US Open will be played in Naples.

For the first time ever, the US Open will be played in Naples.

The Pickleball Open, that is.

From April 26 to May 1, Naples will host the first US Open Pickleball Championships. The racket-sport event is expected to draw 1,000 athletes to 19 courts at East Naples Community Park, including 12 new courts under construction. Players will compete for $25,000 in prize money.

“We'll turn East Naples Community Park into Flushing, N.Y.,” says Parker Medley, sports marketing manager for the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Pickleball combines games such as tennis, badminton and ping-pong with a paddle and plastic ball with a net. Because the court is smaller than a tennis court, it is appealing to older people in areas such as Naples.

Spirit Promotions, the organizers of the championship, contacted Collier County about hosting the event. That's unusual, Medley says, because the county is usually the one recruiting sports-related events to the area.

Although Spirit is based in Chicago, the firm's principals, Chris Evon and Terri Graham, have local ties. “They happen to have a condo on Marco Island, so they were really familiar with the area,” Medley says.

Each athlete is likely to bring additional visitors to the area, to the delight of hoteliers and other hospitality businesses. “They're going to fill out a lot of space,” says Medley.

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