Pickleball is everywhere these days. “Developers Embrace Passion for Pickleball,” proclaimed The New York Times. “Since When Do Millennials Love Pickleball?” pondered The Wall Street Journal. Even The New Yorker, for crying out loud, asked the question, “Can Pickleball Save America?”
The answer just might be “yes,” if the number of new pickleball facilities bouncing up in communities around the country is any indication. (And if all the parking problems can be ironed out.)
In Madison, Wis., the proprietor of an eatery called Beef Butter BBQ opened Pickle Pro Courts on Aug. 1. The indoor facility “where the weather is always perfect” (as its website proclaims) features five dedicated courts complemented by TV-quality lighting, netting between each court and 24-7 access. “[Facility owner Patrick] Riha says he probably got a little carried away and spent more than he intended on the courts, but he’s not worried,” writes columnist Doug Moe on Channel3000.com. “He’s confident the new facility will succeed. Pickleball will see to that.”
A couple hours north of Madison, a new outdoor pickleball facility recently opened at Telulah Park in Appleton with eight courts and is reportedly the largest of its kind in Northeast Wisconsin.
Made possible by a $500,000 donation from Mary Beth Nienhaus, an Appleton resident and former teacher who taught pickleball in her physical education classes, the complex is lighted and already has attracted enthusiasts from all over the area. “Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States for all ages,” Nienhaus told WBAY.com. “There’s definitely a need for pickleball courts, so this is just a perfect venue and I’m hoping that there will be a lot of people that will visit our courts.”
In some cases, municipalities are converting tennis courts to pickleball courts — a move that doesn’t always sit well with tennis players. The new pickleball courts at 16th Street Park in Bayonne, N.J., are the city’s first, according to HudsonReporter.com, and the Division of Recreation now offers adult pickleball lessons for local residents.
Meanwhile, “one of Cincinnati’s largest public tennis facilities is being converted into a world-class place for pickleball and [is] the largest of its kind in Ohio,” according to SpectrumNews1.com. With a $500,000 price tag for repaving and repainting the courts, the project stemmed from the local Pickleball at Sawyer Point Club. “I saw that these tennis courts were getting no utilization whatsoever,” club president Greg Lessis said. “So I approached Cincinnati parks management and said, ‘Hey, can we get a few nets out here and get some use out of these unused tennis courts?’ They said, ‘Yeah,’ so we started in May of 2020 with 11 people and grew from there.”
Today, the courts average more than 50 people per day, playing from 8 a.m. to noon. Loaner paddles and balls are free, and so is playing time. “This is a public park, and thankfully, there has been no interest anywhere in monetizing this,” Lessis said. “So it will be free, and anybody can play.”
That’s definitely not the motivation behind Pints & Paddle, a proposed 33,000-square-foot facility in the Minneapolis suburb of Maple Grove. The developer’s plans call for 10 indoor courts alongside a restaurant and self-serve taproom, according to Axios.com. The website also reports that Smash Park — an Iowa-based company that builds indoor-outdoor venues — will open two 30,000-square-foot park facilities in the Twin Cities that will include pickleball courts, food, drinks, ax throwing, duckpin bowling and live music.
All of this happening as pickleball is generating national TV attention. CBS broadcast the Skechers Invitational Summer Championship, a Pro Pickleball Association Tour stop, on Aug. 13 at the celebrity-heavy Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Then there’s PICKLED, a star-studded, comedic pickleball tournament hatched by Stephen Colbert’s Spartina Productions, Funny Or Die and CBS Studios. A two-hour special featuring highlights will air later this year on CBS and via the streaming service Paramount+.
“It’s intergenerational; you can be 8 or 80 and still enjoy your time on the court,” Matt Manasse, the Riviera’s resident pickleball coach and a PICKLED consultant, told TheHollywoodReporter.com, predicting that pickleball could become the world’s largest participatory sport within the next 10 to 15 years; he also didn’t rule out a spot in the Olympics by 2028. “It’s only going to get bigger.”