BULLHEAD CITY — The Bullhead City/Laughlin Senior Games began Sunday morning with pickleball players and spectators singing the national anthem.
More pickleball players have signed up this year than in 2019: 182 players this year versus 121 in 2019, said Dave Heath, the city’s parks and recreation superintendent.
Various singles and doubles rounds for pickleball continue through Wednesday. Players also are categorized by age: 50-59, 60-69 and 70-79.
On the Nevada side of the Colorado River, bowling began Sunday at the bowling center inside the Riverside Resort Hotel & Casino.
The most significant rise has been in the number of teams participating in softball at the Senior Games: 81 teams this year versus 53 last year.
This will be the largest-ever softball tournament held here, Heath said.
The number of participants overall during this eight-day event increased substantially as well: 1,706 this year compared with 1,162 in 2019.
Participants come from across North America.
It’s no accident that turnout is higher because Bullhead City officials set up booths at the recent National Senior Games and Huntsman World Senior Games in an effort to get the word out about this local sports event for seniors ages 50 and older.
Heath said the decent prices for good lodging and the area’s proximity to Las Vegas International Airport also help make the event attractive to amateur athletes who qualify.
There’s hope that, for future Seniors Games, groups or teams might charter flights in and out of Laughlin-Bullhead International Airport, Heath added.
One pickleball enthusiast said he hopes that his sport will attract as many as 300 players to participate in next year’s Senior Games.
“We need more locals — and snowbirds — playing,” said Jack Brown, 82, of Bullhead City, who started playing about five years ago. He’s playing in the age 70-79 bracket.
Before picking up a pickleball paddle, Brown played tennis and ping pong. He said he finds it easier on his body than tennis.
Another related sport is badminton. Racquetball is played with similar strokes and footwork, according to some other players.
A Lake Havasu couple camped in town instead of driving back and forth. Pete Baumann and his wife, Mary, play doubles and participate in all the pickleball events they can. They’ve been playing the sport for three years.
Lake Havasu City has only four pickleball courts currently. That city has a local tournament and will have more of courts completed later this year, he said.
Baumann also said he and his wife like the courts at Rotary Park. Sunday was their first time playing on them.
“They are really nice,” he said.
There are eight public courts at Rotary Park as well as three play areas each at the Suddenlink Community Center and the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Colorado River.
Another couple, from Redondo Beach, California, began playing pickleball two years ago.
“It’s a very social game,” said Lisa Olson as her husband, Greg, sat next to her and listened. “It’s great after you retire.”
It’s also a fairly relaxing activity compared to the more competitive tennis games they used to play.
Olson smiled as she described it as sort of an “older people’s kindergarten.”
To see the schedule of events ranging from basketball to track and field, go to https://bullheadlaughlinseniorgames.usetopscore.com