Major League Pickleball Expands with 12 New Teams - High-Profile Investors Join the Fastest-Growing Sport

Major League Pickleball Expands with 12 New Teams - High-Profile Investors Join the Fastest-Growing Sport

Dec 24, 2023 · 5 min read

The sport of pickleball continues to gain popularity and attract high-profile investors from various industries.

Major League Pickleball (MLP) recently announced the addition of 12 new teams for 2023, with investors such as Kevin Durant, Heidi Klum, Eva Longoria, Michael Phelps, and Tom Ricketts among the supporters.

What is MLP and who runs it?

The diverse backgrounds and expertise of these new owners are seen as valuable assets as MLP, the world’s largest collective pickleball organisation, aims to expand and reach a larger fanbase. This growth reflects the philosophy of pickleball, which is known for bringing people together from all walks of life.

In a significant development, MLP merged with the Professional Pickleball Association, led by Tom Dundon, and introduced the VIBE Pickleball League with Mark Cuban as the first team owner. This merger allowed MLP to expand to 24 teams, with six events and a prize pool of $5 million for the upcoming year. In 2021, MLP had only eight teams and one event. Each team will consist of two men and two women, promoting gender equality in the sport. Margaritaville, a popular casual dining chain, has also joined as a title sponsor.

The Stars Behind the Court

The ownership groups of the new teams showcase pre-existing connections. For example, the D.C. Pickleball team comprises investors who were previously involved with Liga MX Club Necaxa, including Al Tylis, Sam Porter, Eva Longoria, Justin Verlander, Kate Upton, and Mesut Ozil.

The Miami team has attracted investments from Naomi Osaka and her agent Stuart Duguid, who recently launched their own agency, Evolve. Nick Kyrgios, another client of Evolve, has also made an investment. Chicago's team features four women's tennis Grand Slam champions, including Chris Evert.

Kevin Durant and his business partner, Rich Kleiman, will own the Brooklyn team through their venture fund, 35V. The expansion fee for Durant's franchise was $1 million, and recent franchise fees have reached and exceeded $3 million, according to sources familiar with the deals.

Where has the Pickleball craze come from?

The sport of pickleball has experienced significant growth in recent years, earning the title of the fastest-growing sport according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Participation has increased by 39% between 2019 and 2021. USA Pickleball, the governing body of the sport, reports that there are 4.8 million pickleball players in the U.S., with over 10,000 locations to play. In 2021 alone, nearly 800 new locations were added.

As pickleball continues to capture the attention of players and fans worldwide, it presents exciting opportunities for growth and development. Aussie born and bred paddle brand Laneway Paddle Co offers premium paddles to the pickleball community, ensuring that players have access to high-quality equipment to enhance their game.

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