OGDEN -- One man had a heart attack and hundreds of Top of Utah residents got into better shape.
That would sum up the beginning of Ogden's journey of working to become the pickleball capital of the world.
Entrepreneur and philanthropist John Gullo had a heart attack in December of 2008.
Following that experience, he discovered pickleball in St. George when he went there to recuperate.
Gullo was so excited about the fun and simple health benefits, he wanted to bring that sport home to Ogden.
"This is the best thing I've done to reach the most people," Gullo said of pickleball and his many efforts to improve the area.
Soon, Gullo funded his own pickleball courts at Mount Ogden Park, 1787 Constitution Way.
Since that time, pickleball courts have sprung up in a dozen other Top of Utah locations, attracting players of all ages and abilities.
And this year, Gullo hosted the Tournament of Champions for the sport during Ogden Pioneer Days.
Next year, he said, he'll host the highest-paid championships ever in the country at $42,000.
"We are the standard for pickleball in our area," said Gina Vodopich Heiner, who is the marketing and fundraising chairwoman for the Ogden Pickleball Association.
"It's fast. It's fun. It's friendly," Vodopich said.
She said the sport has become so popular in the Top of Utah that people are converting their basketball courts in their private residences into pickleball courts.
She said she attended an August tournament held in a private residence.
"The yard was filled with young adults," she said. "They had medals and the whole works."
Gullo said those who want to participate just need to attend during open play at his courts.
During those times, potential participants just need to put their pickleball paddles in slots near the courts.
When the court is free and a person's paddle is up, they are able to enter the court with others whose paddles are at the front of the line.
Open play is offered Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings from 9 a.m. to noon or even earlier during hot months.
Open play also is offered Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 5 p.m. to dusk or 7 p.m. to dusk during hot months.
Other Top of Utah locations where pickleball may be played are:
* Twin Hollows Park, 900 E. 1400 North.
* Pioneer Park, 800 W. Forest Street
* Box Elder High School, 380 S. 600 West
* USU Extension Building, evening hours, 195 West 1100 South
* Brigham City Community Center, 7 a.m. start time, 24 N. 300 West
* Bunderson Recreation Building, $10 per month to use, 641 East 200 North
* Clearfield Aquatic Center, 825 S. State Street
* Marshall White Center, indoor courts, 222 28th Street
* Mt. Ogden Park, 3144 Taylor Ave.
* Ogden City Recreation Center, indoor courts, 85 North 100 East
* Kaysville City Recreation Center, indoor courts, 85 North 100 East
* Riverdale Elementary School, 1160 West 4400 South
* Roy Municipal Park, 5900 S. 2200 West
Contact reporter JaNae Francis at 801-625-4228 or email@example.com, or follow her on twitter at @jfrancis.