Racquetball is one of the newest and most popular sports in North America today, is played indoors on a 4-wall court 20 ft (6 m) wide, 40 ft (12 m) long and 20 ft high. The 2.5" (6.35 cm) rubber ball must be returned to the front wall before it bounces twice, and floor, ceiling and walls are in play. Only 50 000 people played in 1970, whereas it was claimed that there were nearly 3 million participants by the mid-1970s. The game probably derived from paddleball, invented in the 1930s and transformed by a Connecticut squash professional into "paddle-racquets," in which a short-handled, gut-string racquet is used. The first National Paddle Racquets Tournament (1968) attracted the attention of media and businessmen, and within a year the International Racquetball Assn was formed.
The Canadian Racquetball Assn was incorporated in 1971, and considerable growth has since occurred, particularly in the western provinces. Edmonton has been described as "North America's Racquetball City" and the University of Alberta has hosted many championships. Private clubs now exist in several cities, as do racquetball facilities in colleges and YMCAs. Two landmarks in 1976-77 were a grant for racquetball from Sport Canada, and grants-in-aid to 2 racquetballers from the federal government. Some Canadian players, such as Wayne Bowes and Lindsay Myers, have competed with success in the US, where there is a lucrative professional circuit. During the 1980s and continuing into the 1990s, however, the racquetball boom abated somewhat as the rival sport of SQUASH RACQUETS experienced a revival.