Sports: NOTL's first pickleball tournament sees swell of interest

The town's pickleball club is hosting Niagara Region’s first-ever international tournament and it is quickly outgrowing the expectations of its organizers.

And tourney co-chair John Hindle is asking the town to waive the cost of renting the Meridian Credit Union Arena and the community centre for the competition.

That would effectively make the town a sponsor of the tournament.

The tournament has already has several sponsors, including from The Lake Report, 124 on Queen Hotel, Quinn Wealth Management and the Virgil Stampede.

In exchange for its sponsorship, Hindle told council last week that the town’s logo would be on the marketing material and a dedicated court.

Councillors deferred a decision on sponsoring the tournament until they get a staff report on the cost of waiving the fees.

The tournament runs June 9, 10 and 11 at the arenas in Virgil.

Except for some professional exhibition matches, which take place the evening of June 9, the tournament will be free and open to the public, Hindle said.

The tournament is expected to draw 200 or more players from all over the world.

Hindle said the organizers have been surprised by the level of enthusiasm for the tournament.

“In the first three days (of opening) we had 80 registerings. And in this month, we had 200,” Hindle said.

“We’re now thinking of capping registrations because of the limit of our facilities,” he added.

Hindle acknowledged that the club has gone through hard times between COVID-19 and the loss of the outdoor courts in Virgil due to a noise complaint.

“Despite the hardships, the club will be investing any profits back into the town,” he said.

He hopes the money will help the town reopen or relocate the closed pickleball courts.

The club got the idea to hold a tournament last year after players went to a few tournaments near Windsor and St. Thomas.

Hindle also said the club is partnering with St. John Ambulance for its tourney, which has been officially sanctioned by Pickleball Canada.

Coun. Maria Mavridis was concerned that waiving the rental fees for the community centre would open the doors to a flood of similar requests from community groups that make frequent use of the facility.

“There are a ton of organizations that use the arena and the surrounding recreational spaces” she said.

Evan Loree, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report