Pickleball could be vital to Leland tourism

 

LELAND — When he moved to Brunswick Forest about a year and a half ago, Paul Galizia and his wife were moving back and forth between the area and another home in Lake Norman.

That came to a halt after about four months, though, because of pickleball, a game the Galizias discovered shortly after moving into Brunswick Forest.

“We’d get up in the morning and we wouldn’t want to go back because we wanted to play pickleball,” said Galizia, who is now the president of the Brunswick Forest Pickleball Club. Pickleball is a quick-paced racket game combining elements of tennis and paddleball, using a plastic ball that looks like a more solid wiffleball.

The game Galizia fell in love with is likely to receive significant support from Leland’s town council during the next two years. Mike Callahan, a newly elected councilman, and Bob Corriston, who is in his first term, both envision the town as a pickleball destination.

“Maybe you could go to Leland for a tournament like you go to Williamsport for Little League,” Corriston said.

Brunswick County has between 700 and 800 people playing pickleball, said Marty Smith, a USA Pickleball Association ambassador in Brunswick County. Smith said 15 communities in the county teach classes, and she believes the number of players will continue to rise as Brunswick Forest and other developments build out.

“The coastal region here has really endorsed it and embraced it,” Smith said.

When Smith started teaching lessons in 2011, he added, 10 players lived in Brunswick Forest. Now, the Brunswick Forest Pickleball Club has 348 members, about half of whom are very active, Galizia said.

For Callahan, the game’s growth could help Leland solidify its status as a tourist destination.

“It could be a factor that keeps people in the Leland area when they come here during the summer,” Callahan said, adding he would like to see vacationers stay in Leland, spend a chunk of their vacation playing pickleball and venture to the beach for a few days.

To this point, much of pickleball’s growth in Leland has centered around the developments. Brunswick Forest, for instance, recently opened six additional courts, bringing its total to 10. For the game to grow in Leland, though, indoor courts are crucial, Galizia said.

“I’ve been out here with gloves and earmuffs on,” he said. “… We crack balls like crazy in the winter.”

While nothing is imminent, Corriston would like to find a way to add more courts around Leland — he helped pickleball supporters reach out to Brunswick County Parks and Recreation to ensure there were courts in the re-designed Town Creek Park — but he would really like to find a way to give pickleball players the indoor courts they say they need.

“A bubble would be a great thing to have down here,” he said.

 

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