JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – Visit Johnson City and Southern Pickleball have joined forces to host the first-ever Tennessee State Pickleball Championship in the Tri-Cities.

Players of all ages and skill levels gathered at Memorial Park Community Center pickleball courts to compete in a round-robin format throughout the weekend, allowing the players to play against everyone in their division.

“What’s really cool about pickleball is they get all skill levels and all ages,” said Mark Spackman, co-founder of Southern Pickleball. “We have beginners to advance from 11 years old to 80 years old out here playing pickleball today.”

Spackman said the event attracted many players from outside the local area.

“We have almost 180 players out here that’s come from 10 different states,” Spackman said.

The growing popularity of the sport, as well as the local facilities, is part of the reason Southern Pickleball chose to return to the area,

“Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the country right now,” said Spackman. “I think everybody here in Johnson City is just really lucky to have some leaders that really see how it’s growing and providing facilities.”

This event marks Southern Pickleball’s second time in the city. Spackman said it’s more than the courts that brought them back.

“There’s so many reasons we want to come to Johnson City,” said Spackman. “One is the great pickleball facilities. There’s also the proximity to downtown with all the great restaurants and bars there. So once we came here the first time everybody is like, ‘We’re going to come back to Johnson City’.”

Will Fleenor, a pickleball player from Johnson City, said he participated in the event because of his love for competition.

“I love friendly competition,” said Fleenor. “I’m a social guy. So anytime I can get out and mix it up with friends, it’s just a blast.”

Fleenor and his partner took first in the 4.0 skill level for their age group.

The championship will continue on Sunday with the mixed doubles event.