Robert Strommen, managing partner of the Naples Pickleball Center, spoke at the April 6 Press Club of Southwest Florida lunch program at the Hilton Naples. Strommen provided an overview of the fast-growing sport, including how pickleball got its name, how Naples became the pickleball capital of the world, and the positive economic impact the sport is making in our area.
The Naples Pickleball Center in East Naples, the largest single location pickleball facility in the world with 66 dedicated pickleball courts, has a membership of nearly 2,300. It hosts more than 15,000 annual tourist visitors from around the world. The center is home to the Annual Minto U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, which will be held April 15-22, attracting an additional 25,000 visitors to Southwest Florida.
Strommen also is one of the four founding owners of Naples JBB, a professional pickleball team with the National Pickleball League.
When Strommen bought out the management company for the Naples Pickleball Center, he utilized his years of experience as a businessman in Minnesota to carefully select his new team and develop a mission and vision statement. He also recruited two of the best pickleball players in the U.S. to join his board of directors. He was intent on creating the right culture for his operation. Strommen sees his role as broader than simply managing places for people to play the sport and wants to have his programs recognized for providing teaching at all levels, encouraging health and wellness, preventing injuries, and increasing social interactions and connectedness. He even engages staff and volunteers as “ambassadors” to make people feel welcome and comfortable at the pickleball facilities.
Celebrities, including LeBron James and Tom Brady, are picking up, endorsing and investing in the sport. Pickleball now is regularly appearing in advertisements and movies, and you can watch pickleball competitions on cable television. The growing demand is leading to significant investments in building additional facilities throughout the country.
The sport is available to every age and ability. For those who believe pickleball is a “fad,” Strommen would argue that this is a sport that will be around for a very long time.
So, how did pickleball get its name? It was named after a dog (Pickle) who fetched the balls at the home on Bainbridge Island, Washington, where the game was invented in 1965.
Learn more about the Naples Pickleball Center by visiting naplespickleballcenter.info.