The central square
(The Center Square) — Governor Jay Inslee signed into law HB 5615 this week, making pickleball the official sport of Washington State.
The bill signing ceremony was held on Bainbridge Island, where pickleball was invented in 1965 by the late Lieutenant Governor Joel Pritchard and his friends and businessmen Barney McCallum and Bill Bell, as a way to entertain their families.
Among those present at the ceremony were pickleball players, USA Pickleball CEO Stu Upson and State Senator John Lovick, a Democrat from the 44th district, the bill’s lead sponsor.
The sport combines tennis, badminton and table tennis. It is played with a racket and a perforated ball. According to the USA Pickleball Association, pickleball has become one of the fastest growing sports in America because almost anyone can play, at any age.
The push to make pickleball the official state sport began with a conversation between Senator Lovick and his neighbor, Chuck Wright. Both 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 prime candidate.
This was followed by a chance meeting between Lovick and Kate Van Gent, fan and pickleball champion. Van Gent became the main promoter of pickleball to become the state sport. She noted that the bill will encourage the construction of pickleball facilities like those prevalent in Arizona and Florida.
Recognition of pickleball as a state sport will provide more visibility and additional appeal for pickleball fans around the world to visit the birthplace of the sport. Other sports and states where a significant tourism effect has followed official recognition include dog mushing in Alaska, burro racing in Colorado, lacrosse in Maryland, ice hockey in Minnesota, and surfing in Hawaii.
Evergreen State boosters also hope the increased attention will generate more economic activity through tourism.
Pickleball joins the list of other state symbols, including Palouse Falls as a state waterfall, the Columbian mammoth as a state fossil, and the Olympic groundhog.