It's not your imagination. Pickleball courts are everywhere

People play pickleball at Central Park on April 8, 2023 in New York City. 

Wang Fan | China News Service | Getty Images

America’s fastest-growing sport is also rapidly growing its footprint.

Over the past seven years, the number of outdoor public park pickleball courts in major cities has skyrocketed 650%, according to a new report by the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting people to the outdoors.

In 2017, fewer than half of the largest U.S. cities offered formalized pickleball courts. Today, parks and recreation departments have embraced the sport, spurring the installment of more than 3,000 courts across 100 of the most populated cities in the country.

And it’s not just local parks where you hear the infamous “pock” of pickleball. Courts have become big business as franchises, country clubs and fitness clubs build and convert space.

“There’s nothing that comes anywhere close to that growth among major park trends,” said Will Klein, associate director of parks research at Trust for Public Land. “When you look at playgrounds, ball fields, basketball courts, you know, you see very modest increases. So this is off-the-charts growth.”

Louisville, Kentucky; Madison, Wisconsin; and Honolulu are home to the most courts per capita, according to the report.

Klein said pickleball has helped attract people of all ages and backgrounds to public parks.

Public access

One community reaping the rewards of pickleball’s rapid growth: City Pickle in New York City.

Founded in 2022 by longtime friends and tennis players Erica Desai and Mary Cannon, City Pickle operates 14 courts in Central Park’s Wollman Rink. With court access starting at just $5 per hour in off-peak times (and running up to $120 during peak times), the group is now hosting hundreds of events each year and has 74,000 people booking court time through their app.

City Pickle has since expanded into other locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island City.

“We have found New York City parks to really understand the popularity of pickleball and also the need for more courts,” said Cannon.

Yet, the co-founders are keeping their eye on the ball as they see new competition arise.

“At some point, there will become an oversaturation in suburban markets,” Desai said. “We are watching that. It’s a concern of ours, and it’s why we are very intentional about the locations and the geography that we’re seeking.”

Members only

Pickleball Kingdom, the world’s largest indoor pickleball facility, announced Tuesday more than 25 new locations scattered throughout the country.

Pickleball Kingdom first opened in 2022 and today, through franchising, has grown to over 100 clubs.

“The growth of pickleball in the United States has been extraordinary. We’re excited to meet the increasing demand and bring Pickleball Kingdom’s premier indoor pickleball to the masses,” said Ace Rodrigues, founder and CEO of Pickleball Kingdom.

Pickleball courts are also popping up at gyms throughout the country.

Life Time, an “athletic country club,” currently boasts almost 700 pickleball courts across its 170 U.S. locations.

On Monday, the company announced it is converting a former Bed Bath & Beyond location in Annapolis, Maryland, into a Life Time facility that will include 11 indoor pickleball courts.

The company said it is expecting to reach nearly 1,000 courts in the near future after seeing a 51% growth in pickleball players at its clubs last year.

Andre Agassi, Life Time Founder and CEO, Bahram Akradi, Ben Johns, Collin Johns, Anna Bright, Tyson McGuffin play Pickleball at the new Life Time PENN 1 next to Madison Square Garden on May 04, 2024 in New York City. 

Mike Stobe | Getty Images Sport | Getty Images

Life Time founder and CEO Bahram Akradi said pickleball has been a major growth driver of late for the company. He estimates Life Time has invested about $60 million in adding new outdoor courts and converting legacy club basketball courts into spaces for pickleball.

“If you look at our growth chart, it’s like Covid never happened,” he said, referencing the pandemic-era slump in gym attendance.

At Invited Clubs, the largest owner and operator of private golf clubs, CEO David Pillsbury had barely even heard of pickleball three years ago.

Today, the company maintains just under 500 courts, hosts tournaments and plans to continue investing in the sport.

“Pickleball is a bustling micro-community,” Pillsbury said. “We are in the business of curating and facilitating micro-communities, because they’re sticky and they create members who we are able to retain. They stay at clubs, they’re extremely active, and they spend.”

Pillsbury said Invited Clubs has invested between $10 million and $12 million into the sport over the past three years.

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Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2024/05/22/pickleball-courts-boom.html

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