Sep 13, 2023 - Sports

Pickleball is coming to the National Mall

A rendering of pickelball courts on the National Mall overlooking the Washington Monument

Pop-up courts on the Mall. Rendering courtesy of Humana/The Trust for the National Mall

Pickleball heads to the National Mall this month with courts popping up by the Lincoln Memorial — and everyone is invited to play.

Why it matters: America's fastest-growing sport meets America's front yard — a champion shot for pickleballers.

What's happening: The three-day event (Sept. 28-30) takes place at the JFK Hockey Fields with opportunities for the public to play on nine temporary courts (paddles and balls provided), on-site pickleball lessons and clinics, and lots of fun programming.

  • On tap: Celebrity matches with the likes of Katie Couric and "The Daily Show" comedian Rob Riggle (sadly not a face-off; that would be epic).
  • A DMV-area league tournament and an exhibition match with Major League Pickleball's new D.C. team.
  • Action in "the kitchen" (and we're not talking resets). Look for healthy cooking demos from a mystery guest chef.

Context: Doubles partners Trust for the National Mall and health care company Humana are putting on the show to promote the vitality of the Mall and the country's seniors (a big pickleball demographic).

Yes, but: You don't have to be 55+ to play. The event is open to all ages, kids included. Online sign-ups go live on Thursday at noon, as well as registration for free beginner, intermediate, and advanced clinics led by pro D.C. pickleballers.

  • In addition to advance registration, there will be dedicated walk-on courts.

Flashback: Racket sports aren't new to the Mall. Free public tennis courts were built in 1940 as part of the New Deal, but razed in the '70s to make way for the National Gallery of Art's expansion.

Fast forward: The existing East Potomac Park Tennis Center — also home to pickleball — was built in the 1920s during a time when Washingtonians used the Mall as a playground (e.g. swimming at the Tidal Basin Beach).

The bottom line: The Trust is building that fun "America's Front Yard" version of the Mall today with new horse stables, interactive art installations, and now, dinks.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to reflect that Humana is primarily a health care company (not a life insurance company).

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