The “must do” event of the week in Southwest Florida is the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships where East Naples Community Park has been completely transformed into Pickleball Party Central with American flags waving proudly, lining every walkway. Live music, a Margaritaville VIP Lounge, a Vendor Village, cheering fans, and that distinct popping sound of pickleball being played can be heard all around the park. The event, now in its third year, has grown and become more elaborate and accommodating every year. A large team of trained volunteers, all sporting neon green shirts, help insure the event runs smoothly. Free shuttle services from the parking lots makes getting close to the action convenient.
“We rely on volunteers, and although they don’t get paid; the work they do is priceless,” explains Tere Haas, Court Monitor Captain.
Almost every level of play is competing from the Pro level including former touring tennis players to social, intermediate tournament players.
“Pickleball is such an easy sport for tennis players to transition to. In fact, I just taught Katie Schmidt how to play last year. In this year’s Open, she’s competing at the Pro level,” explains Missy Kaut, pickleball instructor and player from Kansas City, who also frequently vacations on Marco Island.
On Sunday, spectators on the Zing Zang Championship Court were given a glimpse of a young, rising, pickleball star, Anna Leigh Waters (age 11), as she won gold in the Women’s Singles 19+ 4.0 division. Nowhere else in a pickleball tournament will you see an event of this kind.
2018 US Open Pickleball
Championship Fun Facts
- 2,047 players are competing.
- 4,700 matches are scheduled to be played.
- $40,000 in prize money.
- Parking is $5 day/$30 week. All parking proceeds go directly to the Kiwanis Christmas in July program.
- Nearly 300 volunteers work to make the Open a success.
- Volunteer referees ref all medal matches and all pro matches
- CBS Sports Network will be televising the final day of play on Saturday, April 28th, with the Men’s, Women’s, and Mixed Doubles Finals on the Zing Zang Championship Court.