Pickleball Central In Coronado ...

Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa Director Veljko Savic, left, and Teaching Professional Lon Krantz are two of the principals behind the increasing popularity of the sport of Pickleball at the resort.

Odds are fairly good that you don’t know what the word ‘Pickleball’ means in the headline to this story. It’s a sport played with a short-handled composite paddle and a modified whiffle ball, on a small court. Four pickleball courts can be created on the same surface area as a tennis court. The sport was invented on Bainbridge Island, near Seattle in 1965.

According to the U.S.A. Pickleball Association, an estimated 1.57 million people are casual participants who play between one and seven times a year, with an additional 930,000 players defined as ‘core’ participants who play eight or more times each year. The odds are pretty good you know someone in Coronado who plays the game.

Recently between interviews at the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa with Director of Spa and Memberships Veljko Savic and the Coronado Marriott’s resident Pickleball Teaching Professional Lon Krantz, General Manager Nusrat Mirza stopped by to provide some history to the growing popularity of the sport at his resort.

“It started in 2014 when we were making plans for our renovation,” Mirza explained. “Don Grueser (Co-owner of Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory in Coronado along with his wife Trish) asked me what we were going to do with the tennis courts. Don said a large number of people in Coronado play the sport and he suggested we convert one of our tennis courts to pickleball. I had never heard of pickleball, but our owner bought into the concept of converting one of the courts and that was the beginning of the story. We opened the courts in April 2016 and right away it became a popular place. Now we have three tennis courts, four pickleball courts, a basketball court and a volleyball court, but pickleball is the biggest story. Coronado has a growing passion for pickleball.”

As the interviews referenced above were being conducted, the Coronado Island Marriott was hosting the pickleball portion of the California State Games. Later this month, July 22-23, the Optimist Club Sports Fiesta pickleball competition will be held at the Marriott.

Mirza added, “We have a group of hotel employees who play doubles. It’s a good way to end the day and it assists with team-building for us. Plus, it gives you a good workout. I really enjoy the game. We are looking to convince our owner to convert an additional tennis court to four more pickleball courts. Our teaching pro Lonnie Krantz is really good. He has clinics here, teaches and connects with people. He has a great personality and a good following. I am really happy with him.”

A little farther on in this article, we’ll provide an update from Mirza regarding major improvements coming soon to the Coronado Island Marriott Resort & Spa.

Krantz, the pickleball pro, was born in Frederick, Maryland, graduated from Cooper City High in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and is one of those guys who can play any sport with a ball and something to hit it with. After playing baseball, basketball and football in high school, Krantz made the logical decision that playing paddleball on Hollywood Beach in the surf, was considerably more fun than two-a-day football workouts in pads, conducted in the heat and humidity of South Florida. That was the end of his football career.

After some time in California as a self-described surf bum, Krantz returned to Florida and majored in Political Science at the University of North Florida. A career where he successfully bought and sold homes in Florida came to a halt during the 2008 recession.

When asked what attracted him to pickleball, Krantz replied, “Well anything with a paddle or racket, I have played all my life. Including, squash, racket ball, tennis, and table tennis. Other than the service return, table tennis and pickleball are pretty similar. Tennis players make the easiest transition to pickleball and we are getting a lot of crossover tennis players.”

Krantz has a sponsorship deal with Selkirk paddles and has been playing pickleball for 20 years and teaching the sport for nine. “If somebody had told me I could make a living teaching pickleball, I would have laughed at them,” Krantz said. With a bad knee, Krantz now limits his playing to doubles, but continues to play at the sport’s highest levels.

Among his best tournament finishes were making the finals at both the Huntsman World Senior Games and the California State Games. On the teaching side, Krantz is a tester-trainer for teaching pros in the Southern California Region.

Krantz conducts private lessons at $60 an hour, with clinics and group lessons available. Describing the clinics, Krantz said, “The clinics are coming to the Coronado Marriott. We’ve got paddles and people will be able to come out for $10 and have a 90-minute clinic. We limit the clinics to 16 players. We have three drills and by the end of the first hour, you are playing pickleball. There are very few sports where you can do that. The game is fun for all levels of players. We have little kids and recently I had a guy 92 who just bought a new paddle. We’ll start the clinics at the Marriott within a month.”

Krantz discussed the benefits of playing pickleball. “Besides the health aspects, the biggest thing for seniors is it keeps your hand-eye coordination and motor skills sharp. And there is the social aspect. In pickleball you play a game that lasts 15-20 minutes, you put your paddle down to get a place in an upcoming game, and you get to play again soon. This is one sport where gender and age are not the determining factors in the outcome. Mixed doubles play is common. Many older players still compete, and you can break into age or skill levels, or challenge into an open skill group if you want to.” For additional information on lessons or clinics, Krantz can be reached via E-mail at lonkrantz@gmail.com or by phone at 970-646-0390.

Savic, the Director of Spa and Memberships talked about the popularity of pickleball in particular and the wellness concept being advanced by the Marriott. “When I joined the team here, we were opening the Wellness Center. We have a ‘pay for play’ concept with pickleball. A total of $5 buys you a whole day of pickleball court usage and games, and the fee includes parking. We give you a bracelet and we also have a loyalty card, where you buy nine days and get one free. A lot of people come, and we have two regular groups, one Saturday and one Monday. We’re working on programming for another day. Anytime people can come and pay $5 to play. You don’t have to be a hotel guest or a Coronado resident.”

It turns out Savic practices what he preaches, as he is a regular participant in the staff pickleball games. About the only limitations to pickleball is participants should wear tennis or court shoes and no shoes with black soles are permitted on the courts. This time of year, a good-sized water bottle is a good idea for hydration.

Last week the hotel had a major success on July 4th when they sold out their event that was held on the pier located on the property. Mirza discussed a couple of current offerings and changes coming to his facility. “Groups ask about our sports courts and for a smaller resort, we have a large number of options for people. We have a great Wellness Center and water sports on the pier. This October we are launching another major renovation. Last time we did all the guest rooms and the Wellness Center. This time all of this dining space (just inside the main entrance, which currently contains the bar and lounge) will all be brand new. Our bar will be half indoors and half outdoors. We are moving the bar and the front desk will be where the bar is now. You will now get welcomed when you come here. We are going to expand the pool deck and we will be creating fire pits around the pool. We are relocating the hot tub to be nearer the water. We will have all new furniture and we have a great designer who is based in Washington, D.C. Most of the renovation will start in mid-October 2018 and will end in early March 2019. They will complete the renovation of the whole hotel from our original vision from four or five years ago. We’re very excited about that. Our tagline is ‘Live Well’ and everything relates to our whole concept of wellness.”

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