The pickleball craze sweeping America has gotten so out of control there will soon be a lifestyle magazine dedicated it.
Publishing veteran Dick Porter of Meredith has teamed up with magazine designer J. Armus to launch In Pickleball, a new sports-lifestyle magazine aimed at fans of the fast-growing game.
The publishing duo say In Pickleball will be “the Vogue of Pickleball,” printed on heavy stock and appeal to the mostly older and well-off Americans who live for the game.
The first issue features Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave, a former star of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” brandishing her pickleball racket. Articles include “America’s fastest growing sport: How pickleball conquered the nation,” and “Quiz: What kind of pickleball player are you?”
“Coming out of this pandemic, people crave a sense of community and escape,” said In Pickleball creative director Armus, who has worked on O, the Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly and Everyday with Rachael Ray, and who recruited Porter to be president of In Pickleboard LLC.
“Pickleball is an inclusive community that welcomes anyone who wants to experience the joy of playing,” Armus said “The minute you step onto a court, you can have a good time. It’s something we need in our culture.”
For anyone who doubts that the pickleball craze is real, consider sportscaster Taylor McGregor’s May segment on how the Chicago Cubs baseball team had grown “addicted” to the game after some players set up a net in the bullpen.
“Now the team has become addicted to playing some pickleball in the course of a game,” McGregor said in the segment, which featured a T-shirt worn by coach Mike Napoli that read: “Stay out of the kitchen. Play pickleball.”
It’s not just the Chicago Cubs. The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif., now features only three tennis courts, but 12 pickleball courts. And the Marriott’s J. W. Desert Resort in Phoenix offers a “Pickleball Package” for under $300 a night.
“It started in the pacific northwest in the 1960s, but it really took off recently,” said Porter, who noted that pickleball courts are quickly outpacing tennis courts across the country, but especially in the south.
While Porter thinks the magazine will appeal mostly to the 50+ bracket, he points out that younger people, including high schoolers and the Chicago Cubs, are embracing the game as well.
The first issue will be distributed free to about 30,000 of the sports adherents via resorts, hotels and other venues known to attract pickleballers.
Thereafter readers will be charged $7.99 a copy.
“While we will welcome all advertisers, we think like many magazines today, it has to be reader supported,” Porter explained of the magazine, which he sees as just the first step in what will ultimately become multi-platform, involving social media, a Web presence and e-commerce.
Pickleball is a cross between badminton and wiffleball. The game’s founders include the late Congressman Joel Pritchard and two associates, Bill Bell and Barry McCullum, who invented it while on vacation in 1965.
The trade association USA Pickleball said that by 2019, there were 30,000 pickleball courts in the USA, a 133 percent increase over five years.
For Porter, specialized sports publications are in his blood.
“My first job in publishing was with the magazine Fly Fisherman with Ziff Davis Publications, which had specialized sports magazines like Backpacker and Sports Diver as well as some small tech magazines covering the nascent computer industry. In a lot of ways, I am going back to my roots,” said Porter, who left Meredith six years ago.
He would not disclose the financing but said the early backers are basically friends and family, drawn predominantly from the West Coast.
“We have more than enough money to make it happen,” said Porter.
He said he expects the sport to continue to grow to more than 20 million participants in the USA, and if that happens he expects the magazine to hit circulation of 500,000.