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Pickleball championship big boost for Collier County

It’s just about time for the pickleball championship in Collier County, which brings thousands of people to the area.

This year’s tournament will bring in a much-needed boost for businesses.

Jody Davis is the only wheelchair-bound player in Indianapolis, so a trip to East Naples to play in the U.S. Open Pickleball Championships is a big deal.

“I’m excited to see four chairs on a court,” she said. “It’s a challenge. I’m hoping it’s gonna be a good day for me.”

Jimbo Cohen, 78, hopes so, too. He’s playing in five divisions and became hooked on the sport in 2015.

“The fun, the joy, the partnership and friendship,” he described.

Friendship is part of the reason Robyn Reeder enjoys coming back to East Naples Community Park to play.

“It’s just so much fun and it’s so inviting,” she said.

Joe Davis is also excited to return, especially after last year’s tournament was postponed due to the pandemic.

“I was very disappointed last year not to be able to come down,” he said.

Organizer Terri Graham said this year’s will be bigger than ever, with 2,200 players from 48 states.

“Just in 2020, pickleball in the country grew 20.3%,” she said.

“All eyes are on this tournament for sure; this is the biggest pickleball party in the world right here.”

It will also bring in the bucks. Tourism officials said players spread out across a couple of dozen hotels and provide a needed boost to restaurants and retailers.

The championship starts Saturday and runs through April 24. For more information, click here.

Reporter:Rachel Cox-Rosen
Writer:Jackie Winchester
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