GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Calling all pickleball fans: The Beer City Open tournament is returning to Grand Rapids.
Belknap Park will welcome around 800 participants this summer. Andrea Koop, one of the tournament directors, says she and co-director Paul Richards created the tournament in 2018 and has seen it boom in popularity, just like the sport itself. Koop is expecting around 75 professionals to participate, with the remainder being amateurs.
Koop, a UCLA tennis alumnus, discovered pickleball through some friends with whom she played college tennis. Now a lawyer, she says she was working out just to work out, not particularly because she loved it. After being introduced to pickleball, she found an alternative she fell in love with.
“Everybody I play with, they’re my best friends now, it’s complete social circle. I met George that way. It’s just a way I would never meet these type of different people that come from all different backgrounds,” Koop said at the WOOD TV8 Live Desk Friday afternoon.
She was joined at the live desk by George Aquino, the managing director of AHC Hospitality, who also picked up the sport about a year and a half ago when he went to play at Belknap for the first time with some friends.
“We were automatically just hooked on the game,” said Aquino, who now says he plays almost every morning at 6 a.m.
Koop was also quick to point out Aquino’s modesty. She said he lost 40 pounds after beginning to play pickleball consistently.
“I think I’m eating and drinking more,” Aquino joked. “Two hours of pickleball a day, that helps.”
The tournament is scheduled from July 20 to July 24. Registration begins Tuesday at 10 a.m. for amateurs and professionals aged 11 and above.