Posted: 5/27/2021 | May 27, 2021
Did you know that the world’s largest pickleball venue has 60 permanent courts and is located in the top travel destination of Naples, Florida? Yes, it’s true, with 60 beautiful courts Naples Pickleball Center is the pickleball capital of the world. This city-owned facility is the first of it’s kind and has been home to the US Open Pickleball Championships since the Open debuted in 2016.
Besides my quick share of this historic venue, I have even bigger news … Here is the official story that was published a few days ago. So exciting!
Big Changes, Big FUN coming to Naples Pickleball Center!
Businessman Bob Strommen discovered pickleball in Minnesota in 2018. Having visited Naples, Florida since 1987, he began frequenting East Naples Community Park to learn, play and develop his proficiency for the sport.
Strommen was hooked and soon approached then-managing partner, Jim Ludwig, to gauge his interest in passing the torch and continuing the development of an already great facility to the next level to build on “The Pickleball Capital of the World.” The torch was successfully passed in late 2020.
A Commitment to Embracing Life
“I have a service-oriented passion for progress, and for doing things right,” said Strommen. “Of course, I want to have fun at the same time!”
Strommen believes that since life is short, it is important to embrace it with passion and fun. This attitude led to a collaborative effort with “partner Ryan Reader, to do something significant” at two Collier County locations, expanding on the development of a world-class pickleball facility with a comprehensive Training Academy for fun and excellence.
“To accomplish this core objective, it became apparent for the need to surround ourselves with nationally known, nationally recognized and well-respected professionals with unquestionable Pickleball pedigrees and sterling reputations,” said Strommen.
Little did he know at the time, the search and journey would result in meaningful conversations with two such professionals, Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner, at the 2021 US Open Pickleball Championships. Both Lucore and Hamner are Pickleball Hall of Fame inductees.
“I find it so interesting,” said Strommen, “that this attitude of embracing life with passion and fun enabled me to meet two amazing, professional women who share the same attitudes about life, professionalism, fun and excellence!”
Double the Fun
During the 2021 U.S., Open Pickleball Championships Lucore and Hamner reunited with friends from all over the world – as well as again reaching the finals in senior open doubles. They also met Bob Strommen in person for the first time, after receiving an intriguing introductory letter and having a fun, spirited phone conversation. After many more conversations and email exchanges, the duo agreed to join Naples Pickleball Center (NPC) in developing a world-class training facility at the world’s largest pickleball venue in Naples.
And now – Lucore and Hamner are NPC Co-Directors of Training and Development!
As co-directors, the two nationally-known pickleball legends are charged with engaging both Collier County’s local community and the nationwide pickleball community in a mission to create a world-class training facility, change lives, embrace history, and further develop participation in the sport among athletes of all ages – all while having FUN.
“We are ecstatic, honored, and proud about this exciting addition to NPC,” said Strommen. Not only for the depth of expertise Jennifer and Alex bring but by who these professional, energetic ladies are and how much fun everyone blessed to be touched by their personalities will have.”
Lucore and Hamner have been competing, teaching, writing about and sharing their love of pickleball for more than 12 years. To date, they have a combined 26+ national titles, winning gold in Women’s Open Doubles at the USA Nationals for four consecutive years (2011-14). In addition to their established reputation for winning, they also enjoy success off the court, all of which they will continue both remotely and on-site here at NPC.
As NPC’s Co-Directors of Training and Development, this powerful team will guide and develop key staff, teaching professionals, and establish all aspects of the club’s training academy. This includes weekly and monthly training and programming for members, camps and clinics, member engagement, and teaching protocol. And of course, they have several surprises planned for the year so make sure you come on by and join in the fun.
“If the last year has taught us anything,” said Strommen, “it’s that big thing can happen regardless of our physical location at any particular point in time. We’re fortunate that Jennifer and Alex can skillfully work their magic and help pickleball players, both in Naples and beyond, from any corner of the world.”
Let the fun begin!
Welcome, Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner!
About Jennifer Lucore
Jennifer is pickleballs first “sponsored” professional pickleball player, a global ambassador and a 2019 inductee into the Pickleball Hall of Fame. She co-authored, with her mother, the book History of Pickleball – More Than 50 Years of Fun! Add to the list international pickleball blogger (allpickleball.com), 17-time national champion, influencer, and volunteer. Jennifer currently competes in senior open divisions and is sponsored by paddle manufacturer Engage.
About Alex Hamner
Alex Hamner was introduced to pickleball by Jennifer Lucore after years of their playing tennis together. A small business owner, 13-time national champion, and frequent “behind the scenes” volunteer, Alex was a 2020 inductee into the Pickleball Hall of Fame.
Both Jennifer and Alex have contributed their column Around the Post to the Pickleball Magazine since its first publication. Both are certified teaching professionals and founding members of IPTPA, and Jennifer is also IFP certified.
Q&A with Jennifer Lucore and Alex Hamner
- What appealed to you about joining NPC, from the beginning, as Co-Directors of Training and Development?
Jennifer and Alex: Getting involved with NPC is a unique opportunity to be part of developing and growing programs and activities at the world’s largest pickleball venue. How cool is that? We thought, why not funnel all the fun possible into Naples – the Pickleball Capital of the World!
- As nationally-known pickleball players, weren’t there more local opportunities available for you to explore? Why NPC?
Jennifer and Alex: NPC represents an opportunity neither of us could resist. Over the last 12 years, we have entertained various offers as a result of excelling in and enjoying this wonderful sport. Because of our experiences and tenure, we neither need nor want to explore every new promotion, product, company, or just some lucrative opportunity. We truly value preserving and furthering the good of the sport and the people who play. We align ourselves with high-quality, like-minded individuals and companies who understand how special pickleball is, and who also want to preserve it in its original state.
- You have created amazing legacies for yourselves within the pickleball world. How do you envision building on these legacies with NPC?
Jennifer and Alex: NPC presents a wonderful opportunity to expose new players to the sport and continue the healthy fun of those already playing. Because Naples is already a world-class residential and vacation destination, our NPC partnership enables us to really extend our reach and develop something special to touch more players through our love of the game, and bring on the FUN!
- The history of pickleball is important to both of you. Where does this align with your passion for the game?
Jennifer and Alex: We are committed to furthering the sport and preserving its 56+- year history for generations to come. We are blessed to have known a founder, Barney McCallum, and we know he would be excited to see us expanding its popularity for locals and visiting players alike. We will strive to make the founders, their families, and all the NPC family members proud. Let’s get it going!