The Park District’s Cunniff Park has been tapped as the location for the third annual Chicago Pickleball Open Tournament, scheduled for September 1– 5, making Highland Park a destination spot for players and fans of the sport. The event, which will be televised on CBS Network Sports, is a sanctioned U.S.A. Pickleball Association tournament. An estimated 500 players are expected to compete with a $35,000 purse for professional competitors.
Today, pickleball, a hybrid of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, is the fastest-growing sport in America. In the five years to the end of 2019, pickleball participation grew by more than 7%, according to the Sport & Fitness Industry Association.
“Like the rest of the country, pickleball is catching on quickly in Highland Park and all over the north shore, and this tournament is a great opportunity to grow the sport even more,” said Brian Romes, executive director for the Park District of Highland Park.
A few years back, residents began asking for a spot to play, and the demand has only grown, Romes said. In response, the Park District built six dedicated pickleball courts at Cunniff Park and two dedicated pickleball courts at Woodridge Park. Several existing tennis courts are lined for pickleball play, including two at Brown Park, two at Old Elm Park, and one at Woodridge Park. In addition, Deer Creek Racquet Club hosts pickleball leagues and offers drill and play lessons throughout the year.
The tournament is open to any interested players, both amateurs and professionals.
“We have a vast array of opportunities for players of all levels,” said Ken Herrmann, executive director of Chicago Metro Pickleball and co-director of the open.
Spectators are welcome to watch, and athletes of all ages are invited to try out the sport.
“It’s a family event,” Herrmann said. “Everyone can play because of the small size of the court and the actual pickleball, which moves very fast. Everyone can get relatively good quickly and get out there and enjoy the game.” The tournament includes three age levels; juniors, adults, and seniors, including men’s and women’s singles, doubles, and mixed doubles.
Though everyone is welcome, Highland Park residents can expect to see some pro athletes. “Some of the biggest pros are coming in from across the country,” Herrmann said.
Players interested in taking part in the open can register here.
In preparation for the tournament, please be aware of the following court closures at Danny Cunniff Park: the basketball court and tennis courts #1 and #7 will be closed to the public Aug 26 – Sept 9. All tennis and pickleball courts will be closed to the public Sept 1-5.