Bruce McPhee returns a shot Sunday morning at PicklePlex, the new pickleball facility located at the Florida SouthWestern State College campus in Punta Gorda. Sun Photo BEN BAUGH

More than 200 players have registered to play this weekend, in the first tournament scheduled at PicklePlex, the new pickleball facility located on the campus of Florida SouthWestern State College in Punta Gorda.

The preponderance of those players are from outside the area, said Gloria Reilly, PicklePlex board member.

“It’s our first event; tournaments in the summer are pretty much unheard of in Florida because of the heat and humidity,” said Reilly. “Last year, we did a little fundraiser, and I was thrilled to get over 90 people to come to play. We have 215 people registered to play for the first tournament.”

The first phase of the facility features 16 courts, and they’ll be occupied this weekend with many of the region’s best players, with athletes making the sojourn from as far away as Fort Myers and Bradenton to christen the new courts.

“I’m very excited; it’s actually happened and its come through a lot of hard work,” said Reilly.

“People have been really dedicated to getting this project done, and not just the PicklePlex board members, but the pickleball community. It definitely took a village to do this.”

However, tournaments won’t be the only event hosted by the new facility. There will be a deep volume of younger faces at the facility participating over the next few weeks, said Reilly. PicklePlex itself is spectator and family-friendly.

“I worked with South County Regional last summer for their middle school summer camp, and we did pickleball lessons for eight weeks,” said Reilly.

“This year, Harold Avenue Rec Center has its own and South County Rec has its own. So, Harold Avenue is coming for four weeks, and South County is coming over for four weeks.”

Individuals and businesses have played a huge role in the facility’s progress and evolution, said Reilly.The sport’s imprint on the community has attracted the attention of athletes nationwide, with people moving to the area to play at the facility.


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