By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw
WARSAW — The level of participation in the upcoming weekend’s pickleball tournament in Winona Lake appears to be parallelling the enthusiasm seen across the country for the emerging sport.
Registration closed last week for the first annual county tournament that kicks off a two-day event beginning Saturday morning at the new pickleball courts in the Winona Lake Park along Park Avene.
Tournament director Dave Thieme said his goal was to see between 75 and 100 people register.
“I thought that would be a really good turnout with the short notice,” he said.
On Saturday, they expect 173 participants will show up.
“We’re far exceeding what we thought we could do,” Thieme said.
The event will take place on Saturday and Sunday and will feature a round-robin play format, according to a news release from the Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce.
To accommodate the unexpected interest, organizers will expand from the planned six courts to eight, Thieme said.
Registration for the tournament closed on Sept. 1, and Thieme said they’ve already filled a few vacancies and that they don’t anticipate any further openings.
All proceeds from the tournament will benefit Combined Community Services.
Executive Director of CCS, Randy Polston, acknowledged his gratefulness for the support of the community.
“Together, we have been able to make a significant impact on the lives of so many individuals in Kosciusko County. It is inspiring to see the kindness and generosity of CCS’s village, and I know that without it, we would face many challenges in meeting the ongoing needs of those we serve. Thank you for being a part of our mission and for continuing to make a difference with us.”
Pickleball has exploded in popularity in the past half dozen years and led to the establishment of at least three courts in Warsaw and Winona Lake.
“The new pickleball courts in Winona Lake are a testament to community excellence, providing enthusiasts with a state-of-the-art facility to enjoy their passion. The upcoming tournament promises to be an incredible showcase of skill, camaraderie, and competition, as players gather to compete in this rapidly growing sport against the backdrop of beautiful Winona Lake,” said Rob Parker, President & CEO of Kosciusko Chamber of Commerce.
“The support we’ve received from both the business community and volunteers has been incredible,” Thieme said.
Silveus Insurance Group has taken on the title sponsorship, while other major sponsors include Mud Love, Scott D. Thieme Financial Adviser Edward Jones, and Focus UP Pickleball.
Additionally, we have the generous support of Sherman and Lins, SYM Financial Advisors, Lester Pierce, Ryan Motors, Arby’s, Cloud9, Oak & Alley, Rabb Water, Pickleball Rocks, Jeff Owens ReMax Results, and Pedals and Paddles.
In case of rain, the tournament will be moved to the Gordon Recreational Center at Grace College.
The forecast, though, includes dry conditions, according to Digital Meteorologist Matt Rudkin.
Action begins at 8 a.m. Sunday and will continue until early Sunday evening.