Not just for Baby Boomers: Okanagan pickleball business grows with player demand | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Not just for Baby Boomers: Okanagan pickleball business grows with player demand

Mila Bagundol, left, and Robert Kelly play pickleball in Kamloops.
January 23, 2020 - 6:30 PM

Snowbirds may have been the first to bring pickleball to the Okanagan, but it’s the passion of the players that has kept the game alive and growing.

Cara Arding, owner of Pickleball Depot, is expanding her brick-and-mortar store to Kelowna. Expected to open in February, the business has been in operation since 2012 and also has a location in Vernon.

With an online retail store, their own custom-designed equipment Apex, and a distribution list that stretches across Canada, Pickleball Depot equipment can be found with wholesalers, retailers and even in public schools.

Arding’s father, Bryan Banerd, started the business when he and a few friends picked up the sport on one of their trips to the U.S. At the time it was a relatively unknown sport.

She thinks pickleball has grown in the Okanagan and across Canada because its popularity in the U.S. has trickled into Canadian markets. Plus, it’s an easy sport to learn and Arding said the demand for pickleball is no longer exclusive to the Baby Boomer generation. 

When they opened their first store in Vernon in 2017, the demand for pickleball supplies exploded.

“The sport and our business grew together,” Arding said.

“We’re seeing a younger population get involved. Even in the last two years… there’s more of a push to give it into the hands of kids and families.” 

Pickleball Depot is also working with Canadian schools to get the pickelball paddles into the hands of children.

“There was so much traffic (to our Vernon store) from the South Okanagan. We were pressured from the South Okanagan and that inspired us to look into the Kelowna market,” she said. The new Kelowna store is at 550-1950 Harvey Ave.

Dale Charlton, president of the Pickleball Kelowna Club, said the sport has significantly grown since the club’s inception roughly nine years ago.

Kelowna pickleball players began their humble beginnings in the lacrosse box with about 18 players, and then to the tennis court at Hartwick Park, before getting 12 designated courts at the Parkinson Recreation Centre. Now the pickleball club has more than 500 members in Kelowna and designated courts across the city.

“We do have a strong following of the 50 and 60-year-olds and we continually attract younger people in their 20s and 30s who have played a paddle sport and are motivated and can get out in the evenings,” he said.

Playing is only part of the game.

“It’s the social aspect of it as well that attracts people,” Charlton said.

The West Kelowna Pickleball Club has roughly 300 members and the Vernon Pickleball Association has reached 415 members.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Carli Berry or call 250-864-7494 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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