NITRO, W.Va. — A rapidly growing sport in Kanawha County, first responders around the area are planning to take on one another in an upcoming pickleball tournament at a new complex.
The Kanawha County Metro 911’s First Responder Pickleball Tournament, the Serving for Safety Tournament is now set to take place at the Nitro Athletic Complex July 21, 22, and 23. It’s the first major tournament at the new facility which opened up this year in late May.
However, the pickleball courts are just now being completed at the $6.3 million sports complex, and Metro 911 Executive Director John Rutherford said that after gathering with 60 to 70 other pickleball players on a weekly basis for the game, they are ready to break in the new courts.
“It will be the biggest tournament in the state of West Virginia, and we went down with the mayor to visit the courts last week and they’re absolutely beautiful, they did a great job, he had engineers build it perfectly for pickleball so we’re excited to get that here in Kanawha County,” said Rutherford.
Kicking off the tournament on Friday, July 21 Metro 911 and the City of Nitro will be host to a community night at the complex. It will include free admission to the pool and splash pad, food provided by Chick-fil-a, Dem 2 Brothers, and Kona Ice, 50/50 drawings, live music, pickleball lessons and even a pickle eating contest.
The event will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. with the contest starting at 6:15 p.m.
The winner of the contest will receive a trophy and a $100 cash prize. Mount Olive Pickle Company out of North Carolina will be supplying the pickles for the contest.
Charleston Fire Department will be on site with their Fire Safety House for the kids and several local first responder organizations will be there with emergency vehicles as well.
The humane society will also be on hand at the event with dogs looking for a new home, which Metro 911 will cover the adoption fees for.
On Saturday, July 22 the tournament fully kicks into gear with an Open Division that includes a cash prize, Men’s Doubles, Women’s Doubles, Men’s Singles and Women’s Singles. Players will be divided into different skill levels and age groups.
Sunday, July 23 wraps up the tournament with an Open Division that includes another cash prize and Mixed Doubles.
Nitro Mayor Dave Casebolt said he hopes to see a host of pickleball tournaments at the new $1.3 million Nitro Pickleball Facility following Metro 911’s inaugural competition.
“We expect to see a lot of income, not necessarily income but a lot of people coming into town with our tournaments,” said Casebolt. “After John’s tournament we hope to schedule one at least once a month.”
Casebolt went on to say that the city is expecting to possibly cover their pickleball courts which will make them attractive to players all year long.
Rutherford said the sport is a combination of ping-pong, tennis, and racquet ball, and that its popularity is not only growing throughout the Kanawha Valley region but beyond.
“It’s growing, you see it everyday locally, but I think it’s funny, every night when you’re watching TV you see a commercial now, and if you don’t play pickleball you may not notice it, but almost every commercial that comes on TV with a paddle involved is pickleball, and it’s growing so much throughout the country,” said Rutherford.
He said that one of their most recent games drew in people from five different states.
The whole community is invited to take part in the Serving for Safety tournament. Registration is $40 and people can go to Pickleball Brackets to sign up, but space may now be limited.
There are also only a few spots left for the pickle eating contest. To enter, call Metro 911 at (304)746-7911 or Nitro Mayor’s office at (304)755-0702. Contestants must be 18 years or older to participate.