The first-ever major league sport to be founded in Austin launched today as Major League Pickleball was announced at Dreamland Dripping Springs on Tuesday morning.
The league will feature the world's 32 best male and female players in eight co-ed teams and will kick off at Dreamland, 2770 US-290, in a tournament dubbed the Pritchard Cup (named after pickleball founder Joel Pritchard) on Nov. 5-8. The grand prize will be $150,000, nearly the highest prize pool in pickleball history.
For pro pickleballer Jesse Irvine, the new league is a chance to get back on a court after injuries kept her out of professional tennis.
"When I started playing pickleball, initially I was a little skeptical, but then once I started playing, I was immediately hooked," Irvine told Austonia at the announcement of the major league sport. "I'm appreciative of the sport because it has given me that second chance, and I think there's a lot of players out there who feel the same way...it's good for your soul, it's just a great sport all around."
Jesse Irvine found a love for pickleball as an adult after playing tennis at a younger age. (Claire Partain/Austonia)
The league has some prominent Austin figures behind it, including Founder Steve Kuhns, owner of both Dreamland and bottled water company Richard's Rainwater; and President Mellie Price, a renowned entrepreneur and University of Texas at Austin professor who founded Front Gate Tickets before it was purchased by C3 Entertainment and C3 Events.
"The launch of Major League Pickleball is a proud moment for everyone in the pickleball community," Kuhn said. "I fell in love with pickleball six years ago and ever since I started playing, I've dreamt of building an elite-level pickleball league... Equally important for me, MLP is going to bring new people into our sport. Pickleball inspires joy, passion and a true love of the game among everyone who picks up a paddle, and MLP is going to showcase the sport to new audiences, helping build a long, healthy and sustainable future for our sport."
Other famous figures involved in the leadership process include former U.S. professional tennis player Jenny Klitch, who will serve as the team's commissioner and pickleball pro and marketer Dave Fleming as the brand ambassador. Austin City Limits co-founders Charles Attal and Charlie Walker; podcaster and researcher Brené Brown; former No. 4 world-ranked men's tennis player James Blake; and Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry will also be part of the eight-member Team Owner group.
If you're late to the pickleball scene, the sport is a mixture between ping-pong, badminton and tennis played on an indoor or outdoor badminton court with a slightly adjusted tennis net. The paddles are pickleball-specific but resemble ping-pong paddles, and a pickleball that resembles a wiffleball is used to play the game.
While pickleball rose as a prominent sport for older people looking to get active, it's now embraced with people of all ages that can agree on one thing: once you start, you can't stop.
Pro pickleballer Irina Tereschenko boils it down to a few factors: it's easy to learn, easy on the joints and easy to form friendships on and off the court.
"You can have no racquet sports background, or no athletic background for that matter, walk on the court and be playing within 20 minutes," Tereschenko said. "And that's exhilarating. People say after they play for the first time they become addicted, and that's a fact."
Austin has an appetite for pickleball with sites like Dreamland, which hosts three live-in professional pickleballers, Austin Pickle Ranch, the world's largest pickleball fields set to open in late 2021, and popular hangouts like Bouldin Acres that feature the rapidly-growing sport. Now, the city will play a key role in elevating the "world's fastest-growing sport," according to the Economist, into a household name.
Director of Operations Brooks Wiley who has gotten himself on the pickleball court more than a few times since he first caught wind of the sport from Kuhns himself a few years ago, said that the pickleball community is already well-established in Austin.
"Austin is a very outdoorsy lifestyle community," Wiley said. "Whether you're going out in the lake, paddle boarding, or running... and also just the community. I have friends that I've met through pickleball that were business associates and are now my legit friends that I go on vacations with."
After Tuesday's official launch, the leagues' first draft will be livestreamed in Rockwall, northeast of Dallas, from 7-9 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 1. Four players will be selected to compete at the inaugural tournament on Nov. 5-8 in womens' and men's singles and doubles and mixed doubles competitions.
Read more about pickleball:
- A dream venue for all ages: Dreamland Dripping Springs - austonia ›
- A guide to all-things pickleball in Austin - austonia ›
- 18 places you can play pickleball in Austin ›
- A guide to all-things pickleball in Austin - austonia ›
- 3 pickleball-themed restaurants on the way to Austin - austonia ›
- First Major League Pickleball season comes to a close in Austin - austonia ›
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By Jonathan Lee
The Planning Commission was split Tuesday on whether to help save an eclectic lakefront estate from demolition by zoning it historic amid concerns over tax breaks and the likelihood that a previous owner participated in segregation as a business owner.
The property in question, known as the Delisle House, is located at 2002 Scenic Drive in Tarrytown. The main house, with Spanish and Modern influences, was built in 1923 by Raymond Delisle, an optician. A Gothic Revival accessory apartment was built in 1946. The current owner applied to demolish the structures in order to build a new home.'
Historic preservationists, for their part, overwhelmingly support historic zoning, which would preserve the buildings in perpetuity. The Historic Landmark Commission unanimously voted to initiate historic zoning in July, citing architectural significance, landscape features and association to historic figures. City staffers recommend historic zoning, calling both structures one-of-a-kind examples of vernacular architecture.
Tarrytown neighbors have also banded together to stop the demolition. Many have written letters, and a few spoke at the meeting. “How could anyone buy this property with the intent of destroying it?” Ila Falvey said. “I think it’s an architectural treasure.”
Michael Whellan, an attorney representing the property owner, said that the claims made by preservationists are shaky. The buildings are run down, he said, and have had substantial renovations. A structural engineer hired by the owner said any attempt at preservation would involve tearing down and rebuilding – an undertaking Whellan said would likely cost millions.
Whellan also argued that any historical significance derived from the property’s association with Delisle and longtime owner C.H. Slator is dubious. “These men are not noted for any civic, philanthropic or historic impact,” he said.
What’s more, according to Whellan, Slator likely participated in segregation as the owner of the Tavern on North Lamar Boulevard between 1953 and 1960.
A city staffer, however, said she found no evidence to support the claim. “We would never landmark a property where a segregationist lived, or there was a racist person,” Kimberly Collins with the Historic Preservation Office said.
Commissioner Awais Azhar couldn’t support historic zoning in part due to lingering uncertainty about Slator. “Focusing on that factor is not here to disparage an individual or family. It is not about playing the race card. This is an important assertion for us to consider as Planning commissioners,” Azhar said.
Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said that allegations of racism should come as no surprise. “We’re talking about white male property owners in the 1950s, in Austin, on the west side – and of course they were racist,” she said. But she argued that allowing the house to be demolished based on these grounds does nothing to help people of color who have been harmed by racism and segregation.
The question of tax breaks was also controversial. Michael Gaudini, representing the property owner, said that the tax breaks associated with historic zoning would exacerbate inequality by shifting property tax burdens to less affluent communities. City staffers estimate that the property, appraised at $3.5 million, would get either a $8,500 or $16,107 property tax break annually, depending on whether a homestead exemption is applied.
Commissioner Grayson Cox preferred the commission focus not on tax breaks but on whether the structures merit preservation. “To me, nothing in the historic preservation criteria lists, is this person deserving of a tax break or not?”
Azhar, on the other hand, said he plans to propose a code amendment getting rid of city property tax breaks for historic properties.
The commission fell one vote short of recommending historic zoning, with six commissioners in support and three opposed. Azhar and commissioners Claire Hempel and Greg Anderson voted against.
The odds of City Council zoning over an owner’s wishes are slim. Nine out of 11 members must vote in favor, and there have only been a handful of such cases over the past several decades.
What's new in Austin food & drink this week:
- Nau's Enfield Drug closing after losing their lease. Did McGuire Moorman Lambert buy the building, with its vintage soda fountain?
- Nixta Taqueria Chef Edgar Rico named to Time Magazine's Time 100 Next influencer list, after winning a James Beard Award earlier this year.
- Question: From what BBQ joint did pescatarian Harry Styles order food this week?
- Austin Motel is opening the pool and pool bar Wednesday nights in October for Freaky Floats.
- Vincent's on the Lake closing due to "economic conditions and low water levels [at Lake Travis]."
- Cenote has closed its Windsor Park location. The East Cesar Chavez location remains open.
- The Steeping Room on N. Lamar has closed.
- Local startup It's Skinnyscored new financing for its gluten-free pasta business.
- P. Terry's opened a new location in Kyle, at 18940 IH-35.