Legislature looks to honor pickleball's Washington origins as official state sport

<p><p>OLYMPIA – Hawaii has surfing, Texas has rodeo, Minnesota has ice hockey and Washington has … pickleball?</p></p><p><p>Pickleball’s Washington roots could soon be officially recognized if a bill being considered in the Legislature passes this session. The proposed bill would designate pickleball – a sport that uses paddles, a plastic ball and a badminton court – as Washington’s official state sport. It would join a long list of official state symbols, including the apple as the state fruit, the square dance as the state dance and petrified wood as the state gem.</p></p><p><p>At a Senate State Government and Elections hearing on Wednesday, sponsor Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, said the bill has garnered a lot of buzz.</p></p><p><p>“I can’t think of anything that has generated more interest and more fun comments,” Lovick said. “I’ve done more radio interviews over this than anything I’ve ever done.”</p></p><p><p>According to <a href=”https://usapickleball.org/what-is-pickleball/history-of-the-game” target=”_blank”>the USA Pickleball Association</a>, the sport was created on Bainbridge Island in the summer of 1965 by Washington State Rep. Joel Pritchard – who would later go on to represent the state in Congress and serve as Washington’s Lieutenant Governor.</p></p><p><p>One day, Pritchard and businessman Bill Bell wanted their families to make use of Pritchard’s badminton court but could not find any badminton equipment. They improvised using some ping-pong paddles, a wiffleball and a modified court. Later, they introduced friend Barney McCallum to their activity, and the three men created rules for the new sport.</p></p><p><!–[photoset id=11687]–></p><p><p>Members of the public who spoke at the hearing praised the sport for being inclusive and accessible.</p></p><p><p>“This is not only a sport for the fleet of foot and the professionals,” said Madeline Frayley of Port Orchard. “We now have huge communities that are built around the sport.”</p></p><p><p>According to <a href=”https://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2021-22/Pdf/Bill” target=”_blank”>a non-partisan analysis of the bill</a>, over 4 million people play pickleball nationwide and 67 nations are part of an international pickleball organization.</p></p><p><p>Locally, over 180 players have registered for a tournament at Spokane’s Pickleball Playground early next month. The city will also serve as host for USA Pickleball’s Pacific Northwest Regional in early July.</p></p><p><p>However, Senate Majority Leader Andy Billig, D-Spokane, isn’t quite sold on the legislation. He joked that his position with the Spokane Indians and as the senator for a district with one of the best college basketball teams in the nation puts him in a tough spot.</p></p><p><p>“It’s very hard to get excited about pickleball as the state sport,” Billig said at a press conference last week. “If somebody wants to put a bill forward to make pickles the official something of the state, I think I can get behind that.”</p></p><p><p>Former Washington Secretary of State Ralph Munro testified that he reached out to friends worldwide to see if pickleball has reached all corners of the world.</p></p><p><p>“I contacted through some relatives and friends, the folks in Antarctica. They said, ‘Yep, we play pickleball,’ ” Munro said. “One time they took their paddles and ball and went down and played a quick game on the south pole – exactly on the south pole.”</p></p><p><p>“Washington state is the history of pickleball,” said Frank Chiappone, president of the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association. “And pickleball should be the official state sport of Washington.”</p></p><p><p>The bill is currently awaiting a vote in the committee, which is expected to take place Friday. If it passes the committee, it will be heard by the full Senate.</p></p><p><p><em>S-R reporter Garrett Cabeza contributed to this report.</em></p></p>