Pickleball’s Big Game in Las Vegas, Feb. 9, with Commissioner Rod Woodson

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By Jacob Jackson

The up-and-coming sport of pickleball is set to hold its first ever “Big Game” exhibition event on February 9th in Las Vegas. Dubbed the “G.O.A.T Bowl I“, this inaugural competition will bring together top professional pickleball players and celebrities for a star-studded matchup.

Heading up the event as Commissioner is NFL Hall of Famer Rod Woodson. The legendary football defensive back will oversee operations and provide commentary during the telecast. With pickleball’s meteoric growth in popularity, the G.O.A.T Bowl looks to showcase the sport on a grand stage.

Event Details

The pickleball showcase will take place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Gates open at 5PM, with celebrity red carpet arrivals starting at 6PM. Game time is set for 7PM.

The fixture will feature pro pickleball stars facing off against Each other in Doubles and Singles matches. On the celebrity side, famous names from sports and entertainment will try their hand at pickleball in a competitive setting.

Food, drinks, and entertainment will be part of the evening’s festivities. Fans can purchase general admission tickets or special VIP packages for premium seating.

Sponsors include sportswear brand Lululemon and paddles/gear company Selkirk Sport. Media partners are Pickleball Magazine, USA Pickleball, and the Association of Pickleball Professionals.

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Rod Woodson – Commissioner

As Commissioner, NFL legend Rod Woodson lends major star power to pickleball’s flagship event. Woodson had a decorated 17-year career playing defensive back for the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens.

Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009, Woodson was an 11-time Pro Bowl selection, Super Bowl champion, and AP Defensive Player of the Year. Since retiring, he’s worked as an analyst for NFL Network and Big Ten Network.

Woodson brings instant credibility and publicity as the face of the upstart G.O.A.T Bowl. He’ll officiate the event live in Las Vegas, as well as provide commentary and insider analysis.

Community of Pickleball Lovers

Growth of Pickleball

Part of the excitement around the G.O.A.T Bowl is the massive growth pickleball has seen recently. Often described as an amalgamation of ping pong, tennis, and badminton, pickleball has exploded from a niche pastime to a mainstream sensation.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) estimates there were 5.4 million pickleball participants in the U.S. in 2022. That’s a 39.3% increase from 2021. Areas like equipment sales, court construction, lesson programs, and tournaments have all seen huge spikes.

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With its popularity spanning different ages and skill levels, pickleball has community appeal. The G.O.A.T Bowl will showcase dynamic pros and celebrities, aiming to further boost pickleball’s surging profile.

Star Attendees

While a full talent lineup has yet to be announced, numerous top pickleball pros and famous faces are expected at the G.O.A.T Bowl.

On the pro side, pickleball’s highest-profile players like Tyson McGuffin, Catherine Parenteau, Riley Newman, Anna Leigh Waters, and more could be potential competitors. The star amateurs tapped to play opposite them remain a mystery.

As far as celebrities go, the event could attract big names across sports, Hollywood, music, and internet influencers. Julius Erving, Dude Perfect, The Miz, and Maksim Chmerkovskiy have all previously shown interest in pickleball. Who exactly participates in the inaugural G.O.A.T Bowl won’t be known until closer to February 9th.

No matter who ends up hitting the pickleball courts for the competition, fans are sure to be entertained by elite talent and unexpected matchups. The inaugural G.O.A.T Bowl has the potential to create iconic moments as it puts pickleball under the bright lights.

Pickleball Commissioner Rod Woodson
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The Future

If the maiden G.O.A.T Bowl goes well, it could become an annual tradition for the pickleball community. With the infrastructure now in place, subsequent events could possibly move to larger venues and draw bigger crowds.

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The model has proven successful for flag football. The Pro Football Hall of Fame launched its own celebrity flag football game in 2017. Now aired nationally on ESPN, it’s become a staple of Super Bowl week over its first six editions.

Pickleball likely envisions the same scope of growth for the G.O.A.T Bowl concept. For 2023, it will start as a one-off exhibition bringing together stars and fans. Down the road, expansion across multiple cities in the U.S. and partnerships with major broadcasters could be on the horizon.

No matter the long-term trajectory, February 9th represents a milestone moment for pickleball. The eyes of the sports world will get a glimpse into the burgeoning game that’s taken communities by storm. If the entertainment value meets expectations, pickleball’s clout stands to prosper even more after its banner night in Las Vegas.

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