Larry Fitzgerald and Devin Booker are part owners of Arizona pickleball team

Dec 20, 2022, 11:48 AM | Updated: Dec 21, 2022, 10:27 am
Television personality and former NFL athlete Larry Fitzgerald during the NFL game at State Farm St...
Television personality and former NFL athlete Larry Fitzgerald during the NFL game at State Farm Stadium on December 12, 2022 in Glendale, Arizona. The Patriots defeated the Cardinals 27-13. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Major League Pickleball announced a 12-team expansion on Monday that includes an Arizona-based team, AZ Drive, that is owned by Larry Fitzgerald, Devin Booker and others.

The Arizona Cardinals legend and current Phoenix Suns star are joined in the ownership group by other people with Arizona ties, including country star Dierks Bentley, Cardinals senior vice president of media relations Mark Dalton and Brooklyn Bedding owner John Merwin.

Robert Gary, Doug Hirsch, Sheila Gulati, Sam Fox, Brian Frakes and Richard J. Schnall are listed as the other owners, according to a press release from the league’s company, MLP by Margaritaville.

The Drive’s co-ed roster will include former tennis players Wes Burrows and Andreas Siljestrom, plus pro pickleball players Sarah Ansboury and Sarah Burr.

MLP has expanded to 24 teams and will offer up to $5 million in prize money and pay to players in 2023, according to the league.

Arizona’s team will begin in the Challenger Level along with its 11 other expansion squads and flip to the Premier Level halfway through the inaugural season. Starting in 2024, there will be a promotion and relegation system.

Notable sports personalities who own pieces of the expansion teams include: former Suns forward Shawn Marion, Pistons guard Rip Hamilton, German soccer star Mesut Ozil and Mets pitcher Justin Verlander (D.C. Pickleball Team); former NBA player Jeremy Lin (Bay Area Breakers); former MLB player David Justice (Chicago Slice); Nets forward Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Aces); Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, former Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki and tennis star John Isner (Dallas Pickleball Club); tennis stars Naomi Osaka and Nick Kyrgios, plus Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Cavaliers guard Darius Garland (Miami Pickleball Club).

Other owners include beverage company Anheuser-Busch (Atlanta Bouncers); models Heidi Klum (Chicago Slice) and Kate Upton (D.C. Pickleball Team); sports agent Rich Paul (Miami Pickleball Club); and “Entourage” creator and director Doug Ellin.

“The diversity in the backgrounds and expertise of our fantastic new owners is an incredible asset as we aggressively expand Major League Pickleball to reach more fans than ever,” MLP by Margaritaville interim CEO Brian Levine said in a release. “We always say pickleball brings people together, and this roster of leaders from across a wide variety of industries is a strong testament to that philosophy.”

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