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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Major League Pickleball Draft Hosted In New York’s Central Park

  • MLP held its draft Wednesday at Wollman Rink, which is co-operated by Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment.
  • Another pickleball league, the APP, just sold naming rights to the AARP as injuries get costly for elderly pickleballers.
Kevin Durant's agent and MLP co-owner Rich Kleiman attended the draft.
Photo by Andrew Cohen

Major League Pickleball held its Season Two draft on Wednesday in New York City at Wollman Rink in Central Park. 

Among those in attendance at the draft was Rich Kleiman, who is the business partner of Kevin Durant and together bought into the MLP’s Brooklyn Aces team last year. MLP’s new CEO Julio DePietro recently said that some teams are now valued at $10 million.

Wednesday’s draft was livestreamed on YouTube, with players picked by all 24 teams across its Premier Level and Challenger Level leagues. The league’s broadcast partners include ESPN and the Tennis Channel, while club co-owners include LeBron James, Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, Devin Booker, Naomi Osaka, and dozens of other stars. 

The draft was hosted by City Pickle, which partnered with Wollman Rink earlier this spring to add 14 outdoor pickleball courts that parkgoers can rent through October for prices that range from $80 to $120 per hour. 

Former President Donald Trump’s Trump Organization had operated Wollman Rink since the 1980s until New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ended that contract in 2021. The rink, famous for its ice skating in the winter, is now operated by a joint venture from Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment, the Equinox Group, and Related Companies. HBSE notably owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils, while founder Josh Harris bought the NFL’s Washington Commanders for $6.05 billion. 

Another professional pickleball league, the Association of Pickleball Players, announced a naming rights deal with AARP for its Champions (ages 50 and older) and Masters (60 and older) divisions. The title sponsorship from AARP, a nonprofit for people 50 and older, comes as a new UBS study estimated that pickleball injuries among elderly people drove nearly $400 million in medical costs for Americans. 

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