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Miami does everything big – even pickleball.

BIlled as the largest pickleball “ festival” in the world, the inaugural tournament will take place at Miami Marine Stadium on January 13 and 14. 

Pickleball has been named the fastest-growing sport for the third year in a row according to the 2023 Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s Topline Participation Report.

Participation almost doubled in 2022 and increased nearly 160% in the last three years with a total of 8.9 million players in the United States alone.

The event – dubbed the “Pickle Games Miami” – on the grounds of the dilapidated stadium aims to attract even those who don’t play the popular game that combines aspects of tennis, pingpong and badminton. The two-day tournament will have food vendors and musical performances – along with “Instagrammable moments,” according to promoters.

Transforming Marine Stadium on Virginia Key into pickleball paradise may be the event within the event. The tournament component will include nearly 100 courts for men’s, women’s and mixed doubles matches.

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“It’s such a magical venue,” said Steve Suarez, a promoter who came up with the idea for the pickleball festival. Marine Stadium’s parking lot also sports the necessary public space to create the pickleball courts.

He expects pickleball players from throughout the world to descend upon Miami during the height of the tourist season but said this tournament is for amateurs.

“This is for the folks that have never played in a tournament, the folks that play with their friends once a week,” Suarez said. 

Pickleball popularity is off the charts. It is by far the fastest growing sport in the U.S. The  number of people playing pickleball grew by 159% over three years to 8.9 million in 2022, according to the trade group Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

Count Mayor Joe Rasco as an adherent.

“It’s easier on you than other sports and at the same time, it’s fun, it’s competitive,” Rasco said. “All kinds of different levels can play. You can play with somebody much better than you and still not feel like you are not embarrassing yourself.”

Miami-Dade County Commissioner Raquel Regalado – who is working to bring pickleball to the Crandon Tennis Center – has played with Rasco and describes his game as “pretty fierce.”

General admission tickets for the tournament are $20 for a one-day pass and $30 for a two-day pass. VIP tier tickets will be released and available for purchase in the coming weeks. The entry fee for doubles teams to participate in the tournament is $400 – or $200 per player.

Tickets to the event and registration to participate in the tournament are available at www.thepicklegames.com.   

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.