Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America, noted Kathy Nelson; and a one-of-a-kind pickleball experience is coming to Kansas City in 2024.
In collaboration with Visit KC, Triple Crown Sports is bringing its inaugural celebration of pickleball to Kansas City. Picklecon is an all-encompassing pickleball experience designed to welcome players of all skill levels: from those who have never picked up a paddle to tournament-seasoned competitors.
The event is slated for Aug. 8-11, 2024, at the Kansas City Convention Center.
“Kansas City is passionate about pickleball,” said Nelson, president and CEO of Visit KC and the Kansas City Sports Commission. “We’re privileged to be working with a trusted partner on this entirely unique event as Visit KC and the City of Kansas City prepare to welcome fans from across the country.”
Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, Triple Crown Sports has been producing youth, high school and collegiate events in a variety of sports since 1982. The organization operates more than 200 events, camps and clinics across the country and has hosted the volleyball preseason national invitation tournament at the Kansas City Convention Center since 2018.
Picklecon is set to host 60-plus vendors and have more than 100 pickleball courts, said Alyssa Morrison, Picklecon director and executive analyst for Triple Crown Sports.
“The event will include local tournaments, camps and clinics, open play, pro interactions, panel discussions, educational breakout sessions, networking opportunities and a variety of community-based activities,” Morrison said. “[There’s] something for everyone.”
Internal research on the sport of pickleball began in 2018, Morrison shared. Triple Crown Sports worked with top pickleball brands, professional athletes and everyday players to understand the ins and outs of the sport and what was missing in the current offerings.
“We will continue working with these industry experts and enthusiasts to create a unique and memorable experience for everyone,” Morrison said. “New updates will be released over the next year as more specifics get built out.”
Picklecon is estimated to bring in an additional $3.9 million to the Kansas City economy, Nelson noted. This past February, the volleyball preseason national invitation tournament brought more than 20,000 attendees to Kansas City and generated an estimated $13.1 million in economic impact.
Pickleball is estimated to have 36.5 million players annually, according to a report by the Association of Pickleball Professionals.
The City of Kansas City is responsible for bringing in events where all community members feel welcome, said Kimiko Gilmore, who serves as the deputy city manager for the City of Kansas City, as well as the executive director for convention entertainment facilities.
“This is going to be an inclusive Picklecon, where everyone can come in to participate, have a good time [and] compete at whatever level they want,” Gilmore said. “That is a priority of the City to have as many inclusive events as we can, and Picklecon definitely demonstrates that.”
Team members at Chicken N Pickle — which was honored as the Small Business of the Year by the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce in 2022 — have watched how quickly the sport has grown since they first opened their North Kansas City location in 2016.
Why has pickleball become so popular? It is the human connection, said Kelli Alldredge, president of Chicken N Pickle.
“What we have found at Chicken N Pickle is the human connection is what makes pickleball so special,” Alldredge shared. “We see it all the time. People put down their cell phones. They’re interacting, laughing. … I truly believe that’s the power of pickleball. It’s so fun to see intergeneration people playing on a daily basis.”
Chicken N Pickle opened its eighth location in Glendale, Arizona, on Tuesday, Aug. 8 and is set to boast a total of 15 locations by February 2025.