Welcome to Traverse City Pickleball, the birthplace of pickleball for the state of Michigan. Traverse City, Michigan has an interesting and long history in the growth of pickleball. Pickleball first came to Traverse City in 1985, when a group of members from the Grand Traverse Yacht Club discovered the game being played at the home of a friend located on nearby Torch Lake. The Yacht Club members, who often played racquetball, quickly realized that pickleball offered an outdoor summer alternative to racquetball, and immediately persuaded the Grand Traverse Yacht Club to build a dedicated pickleball court as part of the Yacht Club’s plan to pave its parking lot.
Pickleball continued at the Grand Traverse Yacht Club as a summer-only sport for several years. It became the perfect way for those playing members to spend a summer lunch hour, playing pickleball and then refreshing themselves with a dip in the Bay. After each game and swim, those members would ponder that they were four in six billion, reflecting on the fact that those players were having more fun than the rest of the world’s population at that moment.
After several years, the Yacht Club members persuaded the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA to allow pickleball to be played indoors during the fall, winter and spring, on a rented tennis court. The tennis court was taped off to mark the smaller pickleball dimensions each and every time the players would use the court. This continued until the early 1990's, when the Yacht Club members persuaded the YMCA to convert one of its existing basketball courts, by line striping, to also allow pickleball to be played on the basketball court. The Yacht Club members paid for the line striping.
During this period, all equipment was purchased from Pickleball, Inc., from Seattle, Washington, the only supplier of equipment at that time. The supplier was often asked whether or not there were other people buying equipment in Michigan, and were always informed that Traverse City was the only place in Michigan where people were playing pickleball and buying paddles, balls and other equipment.
In the mid-1990's, the need developed to have a second court, and the original members fund-raised and again paid to resurface all of the YMCA’s two basketball courts, creating two indoor pickleball courts. A few years later, the members fund-raised again and created a new surface that allowed for three pickleball courts. Once there were three indoor pickleball courts at the YMCA, the members negotiated with the YMCA and raised funds to convert two outdoor tennis courts along the Boardman River to three outdoor pickleball courts. Now pickleball could be played all year long at the YMCA, and taking a dip after a hot summer game occurred in the Boardman River, rather than West Bay.
In 2003, pickleball held its first national championship event in The Villages, Florida. George Powell and Gary Ford attended this inaugural National Championship, and brought back several medals. George Powell took a national championship medal in his age group, for singles, winning $100 prize money, and George and Gary earned a bronze medal in open doubles.
The following year, numerous players from Traverse City attended the second national pickleball championship, and brought back many experiences and new approaches to the game as a result of their exposure to the national level. The National Championship Tournament was temporarily discontinued after the second championship.
Shortly after 2004, pickleball began to take off in popularity in the urban areas of Michigan, and soon local tournament play began to occur. During this period, pickleball in Traverse City began to explode as a result of local exposure to the court systems available at the YMCA and the popularity of the sport in Florida and Arizona, second homes for many Traverse City residents.
In 2011, the core players in Traverse City again raised funds and paid for the resurfacing of the court areas inside the YMCA to add a fourth pickleball court. Beginning in 2012, the local players, in conjunction with the YMCA, began holding a regional pickleball tournament, known as the Great Lakes Open. Also during this period, numerous township park tennis courts and some private courts began adding pickleball line striping to their tennis surfaces, allowing for numerous additional locations to at which to play outdoor pickleball during the warmer months.
In 2014, the YMCA completed construction of a new main facility on Silver Lake Road, and anticipated how to continue use of the Boardman River YMCA facility. The Traverse Area Pickleball Association was formed in 2014, to solidify support for growing pickleball in Northern Michigan, and in particular, to fund-raise and plan the conversion of the remainder of the Boardman River branch of the YMCA into additional pickleball courts. In August, 2014, after considerable planning and fund-raising by the Traverse Area Pickleball Association, six dedicated pickleball-only courts were installed in the YMCA, bringing the total number of indoor courts at the YMCA to ten.
Not resting on its accomplishments, the Traverse Area Pickleball Association next began negotiating with Garfield Township to convert the five outdoor pickleball courts next to the YMCA into eight brand-new, dedicated courts, with additional parking and a river access park directly adjacent to the YMCA. Traverse Area Pickleball Association secured a matching grant from Rotary Charities of Traverse City, and the eight outdoor pickleball courts, surrounded by a beautiful park along the banks of the Boardman River, in the Boardman Valley Nature Preserve, were recently completed in August, 2018.
Additionally, the Traverse Area Pickleball Association led the way to convert four tennis/pickleball courts at Veteran’s Park (“The Dog Park.”) Six new courts were developed with local foundation monies and contributions from Traverse Area Pickleball Association members. The Traverse Area Pickleball Association has been a driving force in developing ten courts at the YMCA south branch, eight courts at the Boardman Valley Nature Preserve and eight courts at the “Dog Park.”
Since 2011, the Traverse Area Pickleball Association has been responsible for operating the Great Lakes Open, which has become one of the most popular, well-run pickleball tournaments in Michigan, with over 250 participants annually.
Lastly, the Traverse Area Pickleball Association recently focused on running clinics and coaching new players in Northern Michigan. Sarah Ansboury was booked by the Traverse Area Pickleball Association for a sold-out three day clinic in 2017. In October, 2018, Traverse Area Pickleball Association will host a “level-up” three-day clinic with Tyson McGuffin coming into town as the head teaching coach. In 2019, the Traverse Area Pickle ball Association will bring more pro pickleball players/instructors to Traverse City for clinics.