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Tampa Bay Pickleball to host first anniversary tournament


Photo by Steve Lee
A high school player makes a backhand return.

About this time a year ago, Eric Klaus and his two sons transformed late-night brainstorming sessions into the opening of Tampa Bay Pickleball. The business is thriving with an upcoming

celebration attesting to that.


The six air-conditioned courts in a revamped building at the Oldsmar Flea Market comprise the site of the Tampa Bay Pickleball First Anniversary tournament. That April 27-28 series for

low-intermediate and high-intermediate players includes divisions for mixed doubles, ladies only and seniors.


Photo by Steve Lee
Ben Klaus and his partner Zack Mabee (not shown) finished as the tournament runners-up.

“It’s been a blast,” Klaus said of the business he started with sons Ben, a senior at Alonso High, and Kennedy, a junior at the University of Alabama. “The ability to take this on as a project with my boys and just embrace the journey; it’s been a blessing.”


“It’s crazy to think about it,” said Kennedy, adding that the most rewarding aspect has been “getting to learn how to start a business and all the great people I got to meet along the way.”


Kennedy also relished the time he got to play his brother in a tournament final.


For his part, Ben, who also played lacrosse but gave up that sport after a recent injury, placed a premium on being part of a start-up business with his family.


Photo by Steve Lee
A high school player makes a backhand return.

“It’s the countless nights of staying up till 2 a.m. with my brother in my dad’s office,” he said.


Added Eric, “People appreciate the family vibe we’ve got going. It’s been a fun journey with the community.”


The family factor at Tampa Bay Pickleball is not lost on Andrew Giancola, who along with his father Andy, became partners with the Klaus family last October. The Giancolas were searching for sites to start their own pickleball business in the Pinellas-Pasco region before Eric welcomed them to join the family.


Photo by Anthony Capris
The Soldo brothers, Antony and Mateo, won the Spring Break Showdown.

“We love playing pickleball and we love the pickleball community,” Giancola said. “Just being able to bring smiles to the faces (of participants) is one of the most rewarding things we can do.”


While there have been numerous tournaments, leagues and instructional sessions at the Oldsmar facility, a series that began this past Christmas is flourishing. Last month, Tampa Bay Pickleball hosted the Spring Break Showdown, which marked the fourth tourney for

middle school and high school players.


Ben made the final, teaming up with Zack Mabee, who also attends Alonso, to finish as the runners-up to the Soldo brothers, Antony and Mateo.


Nearly 50 Tampa Bay area students competed in the tourney.


BY STEVE LEE

Times Total Media Correspondent

Photos by Steve Lee & Anthony Capris

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