SANBORN, NY – Pickleball is a sport that you may not have heard of, but it is gaining a foothold in Western New York.
Niagara County Community College is playing host Friday and Saturday to a tournament which organizers say is a first of a kind event for the region, and which attracted 80 participants playing 120 matches.
The sport is sort of a cross between tennis and ping-pong.
It is played over a net, where you use paddles, to hit a whiffle ball.
"Thus we get pickleball," said Don Voisinet, New York State District Coordinator for Pickleball. "It's sort of a silly name for a great game and a great sport, but it stuck."
Although it traces its roots to the West Coast 50 years ago, pickleball is just beginning to take hold in these parts, according to Voisinet.
"Three years ago there was virtually no pickleball in Western New York. And even though most people here probably haven't heard of it, they will shortly," said Voisinet, who predicts a future increase in players and venues.
While pickleball is a sport for participants of any age, it is particularly popular with those who have reached an age where they are aware of the need to stay active, but might not have the strength and stamina to participate in the activities they once did.
"This is a great sport for people 50 and older in particular," said Jason Santerre, who is coordinating the tournament at NCCC. "It has a smaller court than tennis, and not running as much and not having to cut as much makes it a lot easier on their body."
The sport's growing popularity might also be in correlation to the fact that the largest age group of Americans are baby boomers, who now range in age from 50-68.
Communities are starting to notice the growing popularity of the sport. The City of Tonawanda, for example, will soon convert some underutilized tennis courts at Ives Park into pickleball courts.
"If they put down pickleball courts, I guarantee they'll be full," Santerre said.
Click on the video player to watch ours story by reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Bill Boyer.