OLYMPIA — Pickleball may soon be celebrated on motor vehicles across the state.
Sen. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, has introduced a bill to create a special license plate recognizing Washington’s official state sport, a title bestowed upon pickleball under a 2022 law. Lovick authored that one too.
“It’s a great idea. It’s such a red-hot sport,” he said. “Everybody is playing pickleball.”
Those behind the effort that produced last year’s law are the driving force behind this year’s pursuit.
“We are people on a mission,” said Kate Van Gent of Mill Creek, a director of the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association.
The display of pickleball on license plates throughout Washington will be a great way to help grow the sport and attract the attention needed to build more pickleball facilities, she said.
Washington now offers 44 special license plates recognizing the military, sports teams, colleges, parks, firefighters, farmers, elk, orcas, lighthouses, the state flower, square dancers and wine.
Senate Bill 5333 would authorize a plate recognizing the state sport. Proceeds from sales would go into a trust account managed by the Seattle Metro Pickleball Association and used to build and maintain courts dedicated to pickleball.
Small sums could go to cities and counties to use for repairing existing public courts, Van Gent said. There’s also a larger goal of constructing a regional facility in Puget Sound with a couple dozen courts where major tournaments can be held, she said.
The association “wants to show the community that pickleball is here to stay,” she said.
There is a process to get a special plate.
You need a sponsoring organization. It can be a nonprofit, a professional sports team or a government agency. You need to collect enough signatures to show that at least 3,500 plates will be purchased. You must provide a mock-up for the plate, draw up a marketing plan on how to spend sale proceeds and pay a $6,300 start-up fee to the Department of Licensing.
Association members did it all in a handful of months.
Van Gent recounted first learning of the idea from another director, Amy Greger, when they met for coffee at a cafe in Manson near Lake Chelan, where a pickleball tournament was taking place. That was April 30.
The idea received the board’s backing in May and they started working on it full bore in August. The association launched a signature drive Sept. 10, during Pickleball Night at a Seattle Mariners game. By December, they had garnered 3,855 signatures, she said.
Association leaders enlisted the help of four designers who came up with eight possible plate designs. The group conducted a poll and one entitled Pickleball Rising emerged as the clear favorite.
Jason Laramie, of Seattle, came up with the design. Inspired by the ferry ride from Bainbridge Island, the birthplace of pickleball, the view is towards the east. A pickleball rises like the sun over the waters of the Puget Sound and Mount Rainier. There are two pickleball paddles on the left side.
The group submitted all its materials to the Department of Licensing last week. The focus now is on the bill, which is in the Senate Transportation Committee.
It will receive a hearing, said Sen. Marko Liias, D-Everett, the committee chair and a co-sponsor.
The 105-day session is slated to end April 23.