LOCAL NEWS

Pandemic puts cornhole on the rise

Sep 13, 2022, 11:44 AM | Updated: 12:43 pm

LAYTON, Utah — No one was surprised more than Chad Littlewood. A few years ago, he started selling home-made cornhole boards. Then, the game got serious. Now, the Layton IT worker-turned-businessman is selling annually about $8 million of cornhole boards and bags through AllCornhole.com.

“This has basically overtaken our lives,” Littlewood said.

Chad Littlewood

Cornhole, once a mainstay of just backyard barbecues and tailgate parties, is now a pro sport. There are sponsors and hundreds of thousands of dollars in prize money. It’s on ESPN. There are celebrity tournaments. There’s even talk, serious or not, of Olympic aspirations.

In 2015, entrepreneur Stacey Moore founded the American Cornhole League (ACL). It was not the first cornhole organizing body, but it has been aggressively promoting the sport and negotiating broadcast contracts with ESPN and other TV networks.

Enter the pandemic. When other sports shut down, cornhole competitors kept playing, thanks to the 27 feet of social distancing already built into the field of play.

“They were pretty much the only sport on television,” Littlewood said.

“The pandemic was actually really good for us,” he added. “Americans stuck at home helped a lot with sales.”

Cornhole pro Rosie Streker

“I saw that cornhole was on television on Saturday morning, Sunday mornings. Started watching it for a little while. I’m like, ‘This is crazy,’” said Patrick Saucier, now of Mountain Town Cornhole.

“I play, you know, beer league, softball, play volleyball, play soccer, all that stuff that I played in high school, growing up,” he said. “I kind of get worse through the years. And cornhole is kind of fun because I can come out here and I get better every time I play.”

Cornhole was just a backyard game for AJ Palmer of Lehi, until he watched it on ESPN.

“And then, I see these guys putting every bag in and on TV. I’m like, ‘Shoot. I feel like I could do that.’”

Now, he wants to become Utah’s first cornhole pro.

“I moved here (to Utah) originally to play baseball in college at UVU. And so, competitive sports were a huge part of my life growing up, you know, and then after college, I felt like I was kind of missing that (competition),” Palmer said.

AJ Palmer practices cornhole at home.

“I feel like it’s my, like, my outlet, you know, or it’s like my happy place where I can kind of just leave the stress of life and work in and just have fun and play,” he added.

Meanwhile, Chad Littlewood, who operates facilities in Utah and South Carolina, is planning to build a 2,500 square-foot research and development lab in his Layton building. He said he’s been talking with a physicist about how to accurately measure the speed of a tossed bag.

“(I) wouldn’t have dreamed it in a million years. I never would have thought that cornhole would have gotten this big, but it has,” he said.

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Pandemic puts cornhole on the rise