ANN ARBOR, Mich. (CBS DETROIT) - Wolverine Pickleball held its grand opening on Friday with community members, elected officials and investors in attendance.
Co-founders Christy Howden and Leslie White started offering lessons to the community in 2017 and said the sport became a movement with players of all ages eager to learn it.
The $7 million, 39,000-square-foot facility features 12 pickleball courts. Outdoors, it features bocce ball, corn hole set-ups and beach volleyball courts, as well as fire pits and food trucks.
Aiming to be a true community hub, it also features a pro shop and a large lounge area with a 30-tap self-serve beverage wall that offers wine, beer, nitro coffee and more.
"It's really nice to see their dreams come true," said community member Kim Begin. "Especially as women in business, I love it."
"We've had investors. They were all players in our community," said Howden. "In fact, most of them were women investors that saw the vision that we have before it really became mainstream. Now, everyone talks about pickleball. They got it, and what we're building here, and just how interconnected everyone is."
According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America – a title it's held for three years in a row.
The fast-paced sport is played using a small paddle and a lightweight wiffle ball, and the rules are easy to learn.
Pickleball is often referred to as a sport for seniors, but at Wolverine, the founders say that's not the case.
"It started out many years ago, 55 years ago, as a senior sport," said White. "But now, the average age is 38.5, so we actually have 12-year-olds that come in and play with 75-year-olds, and they all have so much fun. Our average age is probably 35-40 is our average age out of those players here."
More than 100 community members attended the grand opening including State Sen. Sue Shink.
"(Christy and Leslie) met while their children were playing volleyball, and as a mom of kids who were engaged in sports, I know you spend so many hours at those games," said Shink. "And to know that their relationship ended up in this treasure for our community is just really amazing."
At Wolverine Pickleball, the community they've built is just as important as the sport.
Players CBS Detroit spoke to all said they've made new friends through the process – some said it has been life-changing.
"Everybody is so nice from day one, the front desk, they were all really nice, and they welcomed me, and they made me feel at home," said Maxwell Dogbatse.
"You meet people you wouldn't meet otherwise. (It's) different backgrounds, different ages, but really fun," said Joe Ingersoll.
"Once I tried it, I really never stopped," said Jannel Phillips. "So, it's been truly life-changing for me because I went from being pretty inactive to really spending a lot of time playing pickleball, making friends. It's been awesome."
Wolverine Pickleball is open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. and welcomes players ages 8 and up.
The facility is located at 235 Metty Drive in Ann Arbor.
For more information, visit here.
for more features.