State Senate Bill 5615 passed the Washington State Senate on Feb. 2, 2022, meaning Washington is one step closer to having pickleball as its official sport.
The pickleball bill was introduced by Sen. John Lovick representing Mill Creek. According to a KING 5 story, Kate Van Gent, one of Lovick’s constituents, brought the issue to his attention.
“It is time our state gave pickleball founders credit for creating a global sport impacting so many people,” Van Gent told KING 5.
The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House Committee on State Government and Tribal Relations. Rep. Debra Lekanoff represents part of Bellingham, including Western Washington University and is also the vice-chair on the State Government and Tribal Relations committee. Her spokesperson, Megan Stockhausen, revealed how Rep. Lekanoff plans to vote.
“She confirmed that she plans to vote yes for the bill,” Stockhausen said.
Like Starbucks and Boeing, pickleball is a Washington creation. The sport was invented on Bainbridge Island in 1965.
Today, pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country.
Carol Lo has seen how fast pickleball is growing right here in Bellingham. Lo is vice-president of the Bellingham Pickleball Club. Lo said the club has doubled in size from last year, now boasting more than 450 members.
In 2018, the City of Bellingham converted two tennis courts into six permanent pickleball courts at Cornwall Park, but Lo said that’s not enough.
“Demand for pickleball far exceeds the current number of courts,” Lo said.
Lo first played pickleball four years ago when she moved to Bellingham for retirement. Her neighbors invited her over for pickleball and sangria in their permanent backyard court. Her love for the game and Bellingham only grew.
“There’s just no comparison to the fun you have playing pickleball and the community you create,” Lo said.
Lo describes pickleball as a combination of tennis, ping pong and badminton.
Senior Lauren Jergen, member of the Western Tennis Club, plays both sports.
Jergen explained the main difference between tennis and pickleball is size. Around six to eight pickleball courts can fit inside two tennis courts. Pickleball is also played with a smaller paddle compared to a tennis racket.
“It’s like mini-tennis,” Jergen said.
But size isn’t everything. Pickleball is often described as a friendly version of tennis. The compactness of a pickleball court brings players physically closer than tennis.
“Unlike tennis, you really get to interact with other players,” Lo said.
It’s also more accessible than tennis. A wiffle ball travels slower than a tennis ball and a compact court means less running. Pickleball has been described as inclusive and accessible by both Lo and Jergen.
Jergen has a membership to the Bellingham Tennis Club and has noticed an increased demand for indoor courts for both sports. She regularly sees players waiting for a court to open.
“It’s a fun, quirky sport that’s taking over,” Jergen said.
More pickleball courts are planned for Bellingham. Opening in Spring 2022, Volli, a self-described “pickleball sports bar” will add five indoor courts in the Cordata neighborhood near Whatcom Community College.
In the meantime, you can find outdoor pickleball courts in Birchwood, Elizabeth, Fairhaven and Padden parks in Bellingham. Outside of Bellingham, you can find pickleball courts in Blaine, Lynden and Mt. Vernon.
If you're interested in learning more about pickleball, Lo teaches a class for beginners open to the public every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. at Fairhaven Park.