The pickle craze sweeping America was so out of control there would soon be a lifestyle magazine dedicated to it.
Veteran publisher Dick Porter, previously with Meredith, has teamed up with magazine designer J. Armus to launch In Pickleball, a new sports lifestyle magazine aimed at the fast-growing gaming enthusiast.
The publishing duo said In Pickleball would be the “Vogue of Pickleball,” printed on large stock and appealed to mostly older, wealthy Americans who lived for the game.
The first edition features Teddi Mellencamp Arroyave, the former star of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” brandishing his pickleball racket. His articles include “America’s fastest growing sport: How pickleball conquered the nation,” and “Quiz: What kind of pickleball player are you?”
“Out of this pandemic, people crave a sense of community and escape,” said In Pickleball creative director of Armus, who had worked at O, Oprah Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, and Everyday with Rachael Ray, and who recruited Porter to be president of In Pickleboard LLC.
“Pickleball is an inclusive community that welcomes anyone who wants to experience the joy of playing,” said Armus, “Once you step onto the court, you can have fun. It’s something we need in our culture.”
For anyone who doubts that the pickle craze is real, consider sportscaster Taylor McGregor’s May segment about how the Chicago Cubs baseball team has grown “addicted” to the game after several players netted on the bullpen.
“Now the team has become addicted to playing some pickleball during the game,” McGregor said of the segment, which featured a T-shirt worn by coach Mike Napoli that read: “Stay out of the kitchen. Play pickle ball.”
Not just the Chicago Cubs. The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, California, now has just three tennis courts, but 12 pickleball courses. And Marriott’s JW Desert Resort in Phoenix offers a “Pickleball Package” for under $300 per night.
“It started in the Pacific northwest in the 1960s, but really expanded recently,” said Porter, who noted that pickleball courts are rapidly outpacing tennis courts across the country, but especially in the south.
While Porter thinks the magazine will appeal mostly to the 50+ group, he points out that young people, including high school students and the Chicago Cubs, are also embracing the game.
The first edition will be distributed free of charge to some 30,000 sports fans through resorts, hotels and other places known to attract pickleballers.
After that readers will be charged $7.99 per copy.
“While we would welcome all advertisers, we thought like many magazines today, it had to be supported by readers,” Porter explained of the magazine, which he sees as only the first step in what will eventually become multi-platform, involving the media. social media, Web presence and e-commerce.
Pickleball is a cross between badminton and wiffleball. The game’s founders include the late Congressman Joel Pritchard and his two partners, Bill Bell and Barry McCullum, who created it while on vacation in 1965.
The USA Pickleball trade association says that in 2019, there were 30,000 pickleball fields in the US, an increase of 133 percent over five years.
For Porter, specialized sports publications are in his blood.
“My first job in publishing was with Fly Fisherman magazine with Ziff Davis Publications, which had specialty sports magazines such as Backpacker and Sports Diver as well as several small tech magazines covering the nascent computer industry. In many ways, I’m going back to my roots,” said Porter, who left Meredith six years ago.
He would not disclose the financing but said the early backers were basically friends and family, most of whom were from the West Coast.
“We have more than enough money to make it happen,” Porter said.
He said he expects the sport to continue to expand to more than 20 million participants in the United States, and if that happens, he expects the magazine to reach a circulation of 500,000.