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How pickleball became Washington’s official sport

Gov. Jay Inslee signed HB 5615 into law this week, making pickleball the official state sport of Washington.

The bill signing ceremony took place on Bainbridge Island, where pickleball was invented in 1965 by the state’s late Lt. Gov. Joel Pritchard and friends and businessmen Barney McCallum and Bill Bell, as a way to entertain their families.

Those in attendance at the ceremony included pickleball players, USA Pickleball CEO Stu Upson, and state Sen. John Lovick, a Democrat from the 44th district, the bill’s prime sponsor.

The sport combines tennis, badminton and ping pong. It is played with a paddle and a perforated ball. According to the USA Pickleball Association, pickleball has become one of the fastest growing sports in America because almost everybody can play, at any age.

The push to have pickleball as the official state sport began with a conversation between Sen. Lovick and his neighbor, Chuck Wright. The two men felt that since Washington has a state flower, a state bird, and other state symbols, it should also have a state sport. The fact that pickleball was invented in Washington made it a top candidate.

What followed was a chance encounter between Lovick and Kate Van Gent, a fan and champion player of pickleball. Van Gent became the primary promoter for pickleball to become the state sport. She noted that the bill will encourage the construction of pickleball facilities like ones that are prevalent in Arizona and Florida.

Recognition of pickleball as a state sport will provide more visibility and an additional attraction for pickleball fans around the world, to visit the birthplace of the sport. Other sports and states where a significant tourist effect followed official recognition include dog mushing in Alaska, pack burro racing in Colorado, lacrosse in Maryland, ice hockey in Minnesota and surfing in Hawaii.

Evergreen State boosters also hope that this increased attention will generate more economic activity via tourism.

Pickleball joins the list of other state symbols, including Palouse Falls as the state waterfall, the Columbian mammoth as the state fossil, and the Olympic marmot.

This article was originally posted on How pickleball became Washington’s official sport

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