Did You Know? Middletown is the Pickleball Capital of Ohio!

You know that the Great Miami Riverway is a hub of recreation - home to the nation’s largest connected paved trail network, and Ohio’s only national water trail. What you may not know is that our Riverway community of Middletown is also known as the “Pickleball Capital of Ohio”.

Pickleball is a paddle sport created for all ages and skill levels. The rules are simple and the game is easy for beginners to learn. But it can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players, too. It was invented in 1965 by three Seattle-area residents who turned an old badminton court in a suburban backyard into the first Pickleball court in the United States. The game itself is a hybrid of racquetball, tennis, and ping pong. The court area and nets are smaller than a regulation tennis court, and players use special paddles and a wiffle ball rather than a standard tennis ball. 

The sport has increased in participation by about 650 percent in the last six years, according to the USA Pickleball Association (USAPA), counting 3 million players in the US.

Now in its 12th year, the Middletown Senior Pickleball Tournament attracts hundreds of people from all over the country. And those visitors spend money on hotels, eat at local restaurants, and boosts the local economy.

The City of Middletown became Ohio’s pickleball capital, largely because of the encouragement of local resident Stanley Volkens, and the work of the Middletown Pickleball Association. Mr. Volkens, as he recalls in an interview published on the association’s website, drove around town one day in 2005, counted 16 tennis courts, and not one person was using them.

So Volkens lobbied city officials to turn one of those courts into a pickleball court. That led to the development of 16 pickleball courts with two more on the way. The City of Middletown, the Middletown Community Foundation, private donors and the Middletown Pickleball Association have all come together to build and maintain the pickleball courts. "They had never heard of pickleball. We probably had the first USAPA sanctioned tournament in Ohio and I consider Middletown to be the Pickleball Capital of Ohio,” according to Mr. Volkens.

If you’re interested in learning how to play, the association offers a free introduction to pickleball for beginners every Wednesday at 6pm at Lefferson Park. Paddles and balls are provided for those who do not have their own.

As Stanley Volkens said, "Eventually somebody gets a paddle in their hands and they get out there and hit a few. It's like a lightbulb turns on. 'Hey, I can play this game' and they tell all their friends, 'Hey come play this game' and that's how it grows."

Find Your Way…to a Pickleball Court along the Great Miami Riverway!