WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) — A huge pickleball complex opening in Wilson next year is expected to bring lots of business to the city.
It comes as pickleball remains the fastest growing sport in the country.
Pickleball groups in Wilson currently share three outdoor pickleball courts at Greater Wilson Rotary Park.
With only three courts available, players have to rotate and wait for their turn.
One of them is Walt Etheridge, who players call ‘the man to know’ when it comes to Wilson pickleball.
“I’ve never played a lot of sports, so it’s a good sport that anyone can play regardless of age or athletic ability. So everybody can join in and have a good time,” he explained.
It’s perhaps the reason the sport has taken off, and why players need more space.
“When we opened these, it took about two months for us to realize we needed more courts,” said David Lee, Director of Parks & Recreation for the City of Wilson.
It’s why Wilson is getting ready to build the largest public pickleball complex in North Carolina.
City council recently awarded the contract to build 26 courts – eight of them covered – at J. Burt Gillette Athletic Complex.
As pickleball gains popularity, all eyes will be on Wilson as they ‘serve up’ some friendly competition.
“We want to have some special programs during the year like couples night, or parent child night. Or any kind of creative stuff like that,” Lee explained.
They’re hoping this will encourage more visitors and bring business into town.
“We envision hosting college club pickleball tournaments here in Wilson, and having a bunch of colleges from all across the United States come to Wilson for a big pickleball tournament,” Lee said.
Whether they like to play competitively or they prefer a more casual game, pickleball players in Wilson are excited for more space, more fun and their favorite part – friendship.
“Just so many friends, you know,” Etheridge said. “We’re just a mixed group of different people from different lives and from young to old, we’re just great friends. That’s the big thing.”
The new pickleball complex is expected to open in 2024.