ST. GEORGE — Ask anyone on the almost-always crowded pickleball courts from St. George to Cedar City and there seems little doubt on the status of pickleball in Southern Utah. 

Pickleball players from local high schools play in a tournament at Vernon Worthen Park, St. George, Utah, April 15, 2023 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News

But according to an online site covering pickleball, Utah is playing second fiddle. 

In a ranking of the top states to play pickleball, Pickleball Union says Utah is ranked second behind Arizona. 

Using data from USA Pickleball, the sport’s national governing body, as well as Google search data and information from sports technology group BallsSportsPro, the Pickleball Union says it looked at items that included the number of courts, events, Google search interest and weather factors. 

The Pickleball Union, an online publication that covers pickleball, cited Utah as having the largest number of people by percentage searching for pickleball on the internet.

“The state reported the highest average monthly search volume for pickleball-related terms at 1,683.8 searches per 100,000 people, including terms such as ‘pickleball,’ ‘pickleball paddle’ and ‘pickleball tournament,’ a statement from Pickleball Union said.

But the edge of the “best state for pickleball” ultimately went to Arizona, with Pickleball Union citing the state as having more pickleball events.

But an objection to that title has been raised by Wayne Bullock, the assistant recreation manager for the City of St. George and its head pickleball and tennis pro. 

“We have the best pickleball program in the country,” Bullock told St. George News. “St. George Pickleball runs over 130 pickleball leagues each year. We have four major pickleball tournaments along with three one-day tournaments a year.”

That includes a stop on one of the three professional pickleball leagues, the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) Tour which holds the Red Rock Open in April at the Little Valley Pickleball Complex

In this file photo, pickleball players try out the new courts at Bicentennial Park, Cedar City, Utah, July 31, 2023 | Photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“Besides our weather, we have the best pickleball community and facilities,” Bullock said, noting the Little Valley complex just added nine more courts for a total of 33. 

Pickleball fever affected local politics when a so-called “pickleball lobby” gathered signatures for more pickleball courts in Ivins. On the collegiate level, Utah Tech touts the top pickleball collegiate team in the nation. 

Cedar City also recently expanded its number of pickleball courts. 

“Pickleball is becoming more popular by the day, so it’s important that states ensure they have solid provisions for players to capitalize on this interest,” Paul Lemley, CEO of the Pickleball Union told St. George News in a statement. “Not only is the sport great for your physical health, but it also has mental health benefits due to its highly social nature.”

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