Exploring Pickleball in Dallas

We advise, consult and mentor pickleball club entrepreneurs, and a great thing about that job is traveling to see awesome pickleball spots! I just spent 3 days in “The Big D” on a pickleball mission.   The goal was to learn more about the evolving pickleball market, visit interesting venues, watch professionals play, test my skill against Texan picklers and oh yeah, visit my sister and her kids that live in Dallas.   I achieved 4 of 5, which is not bad! (I never got to play because of rain on the days I was free).

USA Pickleball National Championships

Located in Dallas at The Brookhaven Tennis and Golf Club, this was nirvana for scoping out pickleball play, shopping for swag, and immersing in the pickle scene.  Pro play took place both indoor and out with great elevated viewing available on many courts.  There were also dozens of courts featuring amateur play at many levels.  So amazing to see rec play and pro play interspersed in the same quality environment.  I can’t think of another sport that could pull that off.  Our shuttle bus ride from the parking lot was filled with an amazing cross-section of visitors:  old, young, men, women, athletes, non-athletes.  Literally the full cross-section of pickleball enthusiasts.

Imagine going to the US Open (Tennis or Golf) and being able to play on the same courts the pros were playing on. Genius. A great boondoggle weekend for guys, gals or couples would be to play and watch at the pro tournament while eating and drinking in the host city. You even get exercise!

Searching for cool dedicated Pickleball clubs

To be honest, I was stunned by the lack of publicly available, dedicated pickleball courts in Dallas.  My Google and Pickleheads searches found plenty of “generation one” venues:  municipal courts, community centers, re-purposed parks etc…but where are the dedicated pickleball places?  Metro Dallas is immense in square miles AND in population.  The weeklong USA Pickleball tourney was jammed with players – but the clubs have yet to open.  I found 2 places where you could reserve a court, drop-in and pay to play:  Chicken n’ Pickle, and Pickleball Oasis. BOTH are 30 to 40 minutes outside Dallas proper depending on Traffic.

Chicken N Pickle

I’d was dying to see this place because much has been written about it, and many of our clients reference it when planning their own clubs.  I’ve reviewed my experience in a separate post: click here if you’re interested.

Oasis Pickleball

Located in Rockwall, Texas a good 30-50 minutes from central Dallas depending on traffic.  This huge complex is co-located with a trampoline park, a swimming area and other family activities.  It has an amazing 40 outdoor courts with a dozen or so that were covered for shade and rain, also a cool pro shop.   I borrowed my sister’s car and shlepped out there for their 8am to Noon open play —- but unfortunately it was pouring rain and only a few courts were playable (and I didn’t want to horn in on the regulars).

This place is really a big time tournament venue, not an intimate local club. They do have an active membership ($55 per month), and some cool programming, but the high number of courts is really to accommodate hosting major tournaments that feature pro and amateur play.  That’s a key part of their business. The facility has the parking and can create the championship courts and other amenities needed for competitions.

Like Chicken n’ Pickle, the massive real estate makes something like this impractical closer in town and regular pickleball players are unlikely  make the drive on a regular basis.  Also, as I experienced, weather can effectively shut it down.  Why can’t there be dedicated, quality, smaller facilities in or around the city?   Where’s the indoor courts and clubs!?  They’re coming.  Several groups have made announcements about openings in Dallas —- it would seem there is plenty of demand.

Pickleball Business Advisors is brothers Bill and John Pryor.  We provide a variety of consulting services based on extensive experience in fitness business development, and research into the fast growing pickleball marketplace.  To initiate a feasibility assessment for your pickleball club, or for other consulting, contact us so we can learn about your project.

Pickleball Paradise, we’ve seen it

I have seen the future of pickleball…it is here now.  A few blocks from the beach off a non-descript commercial strip in Holly Hill, Florida lies absolute paradise if pickleball is your passion.  It’s called “Pictona”, in a nod to nearby Daytona Beach.

Like most of us, I discovered pickleball on converted tennis courts, community center gyms, and random splotches of asphalt where someone painted lines and threw up temporary nets.  The conditions were not optimal, but the appeal of the game shone through anyway.  What I longed for, without really knowing it, was an environment dedicated solely to every aspect of the pickleball experience. Pictona is exactly that.  Close your eyes and make a wish list of what you’d like, it’s there:

Pickleball perfection

  • 49, yes 49 courts where there is some kind of play going on all day, every day
  • Virtually endless open play to accommodate anyone’s schedule
  • Covered as well as outdoor play on pristine surfaces with permanent nets
  • Fencing around each and every court assuring uninterrupted play
  • Optimal lighting and extensive viewing and mingling areas for between games
  • A world-class “championship court” that can seat over 1000 
  • Cool retail products and paddle-demo options
  • A “Kitchen” that serves good food as well as beer and wine
  • Court-programming to accommodate any level of play
  • Tournaments, ladders, mixers and various events for all levels
  • Youth, beginner and teacher training programs
  • Corporate, team-building and event facilities
  • A cordial and highly social vibe and environment

I could go on and on.  Pictona is the vision of Rainer and Julie Martens, who worked with the town of Holly Hill, and largely funded the effort as a gift to the community and to the pickleball universe. The facility was built in two phases with the most recent 24 courts coming on line just one year ago.  Membership options vary and members are the lifeblood of the facility, but there are lots of options for visitors. The unique quality and scale of Pictona have made it ideal for events and amateur and professional tournaments that are increasingly discovering it.

My brother and I spent 2 days at Pictona exploring, researching, learning….and of course playing pickleball! We wanted to understand what’s working and how to best organize and promote a local pickleball center.  Ownership and the team at Pictona are clearly on the very cutting edge of where pickleball is going, their model continues to evolve —- but we’ve seen what they have now, it is truly pickleball paradise. Contact us anytime to brainstorm building your own pickleball paradise.

Pickleball. An intriguing business opportunity. It feels familiar

There are interesting parallels to the boutique fitness rage of the past 20 years

In 2004 I co-founded one of the first spinning (indoor cycling) studios in the country.   It was a new concept tapping into a latent craving for quality fitness experiences. Ultimately we enjoyed considerable success and opened 200+ around the country,  During the same period, dozens of similar boutique fitness concepts enjoyed explosive growth and success.  The face of the entire fitness industry was transformed in those years because of boutique fitness; literally thousands of new businesses sprouted that are thriving today

Parallels to pickleball?

In the beginning spinning was hugely popular in community centers and gyms, but there were few dedicated businesses.  Most pickleball today is done on re-purposed tennis courts and in community centers, we’re at the very beginning of dedicated facilities. Demand is huge, court supply is low.

The attractiveness of spinning was established, we didn’t need to create it.  Our mission was to build on the core appeal of indoor cycling and make it an even better experience.   Similarly, the core appeal of pickleball is established;  successful pickleball clubs and facilities will need to build on that core.

Building on the core for indoor cycling  meant investing in better bikes, better sound systems, cooler studios, more efficient reservation systems and better instructors.  With pickleball, players want better courts, cooler facilities, quality coaching, and simpler access to court time.

With spin, yes it was exercise, but with a fun-ness to it and with a community vibe. That was a big part of the appeal.  With pickle, yes it’s exercise but it’s more than that, it’s fun, it’s community-driven, its’s social, and oh by the way, it’s exercise!

Pickleball Business Advisors is brothers Bill and John Pryor.  We provide a variety of consulting services based on extensive experience in fitness business development, and research into the fast growing pickleball marketplace.  To initiate a feasibility assessment for your pickleball club, or for other consulting, contact us so we can learn about your project.

Pickleball growth: one town’s history

Pickleball growth has been amazing, and there are many reasons for the appeal. For a real world example, my own experience illustrates a trend and a phenomena playing out across the country. In a period of 14 months, in one small town in Connecticut, a pickleball community blossomed…out of nowhere.  From 2 guys playing singles to a growing community of over 100 players participating in various Pickleball and social events.  This is one specific case history, sound familiar?

Pickleball growth timeline…happened fast!

Pickleball Growth Statistics

November 2021
2 guys asked the local YMCA to allow them to bring their own net and play at 6:00 am twice a week.  (Y had 2 courts lined out on gym floor)

January 2022
8-10 regulars emerge and a round robin rotation system gets put in place.  A custom built paddle holder appears to regulate round robin process

March 2022
Group grows to 16-20, a third day is added.  Team Reach app is used to organize and communicate amongst the group. 

More players spurs beginner program, addition of courts and plan for outdoor re-purposing.

June 2022
Group grows to 30+, a fourth day is added (with extended hours).

August 2022
Group grows to 50, a fifth day is added (with extended hours)  Group lobbies ‘Y’ for more courts and to refurbish outdoor facility.

December 2022
A sixth day is added,  players rent courts at a local tennis facility and have a holiday Pickle & Party event.  Players further lobby YMCA for more courts and for outdoor tennis court renovation for pickle.  Total participants top 100.

January 2023
a volunteer crew begins ‘taping’ a 3rd court 3x per week to accommodate demand.  Beginner clinics are instituted drawing dozens more players.  Playing time becomes tough at Y so several advanced groups split off and pay for court time at local tennis facility. Finally 3 courts are permanently lined.

March 2023
A committee of ‘Y’ pickleball players is formed to present a plan to the YMCA management team. The plan primarily addresses the refurbishment of 2 outdoor tennis courts and converting them to 5 or 6 pickleball courts.

This timeline is one real world example of how a Pickleball community grew organically because of it’s unique appeal. Demand for court time in Mystic, Connecticut has outstripped supply creating a classic pickleball supply and demand issue. players are now scrambling to find courts…..and beginning to pay. Summer will open up some public courts as more and more are being adapted for pickle, but pickleball growth and participation shows no signs of slowing.

Cool new pickleball concepts tap into increased demand for court play

The insane growth in demand for pickleball courts and facilities has driven a raft of new business startups around the country. The first wave of pickleball was played in driveways, streets, parking lots and re-purposed public tennis.  Then it was gyms, community centers, condo complex’s and custom-built pickle centers.  The latest?  Specialty concepts integrating elements of sports, games, shopping, food, beverage and community.  These new centers are taking advantage of the growing demand for pickleball courts.

Examples of pickleball businesses recently launched or in progress

Chicken n’ Pickle
Well established indoor/outdoor entertainment complex including a casual, chef-driven restaurant and sports bar, pickleball courts and a variety of yard games.  6 locations in TX, OK and KS, 3 more in the coming year.  Typical configuration is 10 courts, outdoor leisure space and emphasis on food and bar.

Pickle Juice
Smoothie and Juice bar in 13,600 square feet tied to 4 indoor courts.  Plans to open 2 locations in New Jersey in the coming year.

Bangers and Dinks (love the name)
A primarily court-driven concept planned to open this summer near Richmond, VA.  25,000-square-foot center with eight indoor courts.  Housed in a former retail spot next to a Dicks Sporting Goods.

Pickle n’ Chill
Indoor / Outdoor Pickleball Hub.  Six Dedicated Indoor Courts (Opened November 2022) Five Dedicated Outdoor Courts (Opening Spring 2023). Food and Beverage Lounge and Special Event space. Lessons, Leagues, Reserved Courts, Round Robins, Open Play, Tournaments, Corporate Events. Youth camps.

Pickleball clubs from 4-20 courts are popping up in small towns as well as cities and suburbs

Electric Pickle
Pickleball-themed entertainment complex is set to open in Tempe, AZ.   Plan is nine courts, as well as space for cornhole and bocce. Plans also include a two-story restaurant and three bars, including a rooftop bar and balcony, that can serve 600 guests. Lawn for live music and gatherings.  Electric Pickle’s first U.S. location and Eureka! Restaurant Group — the California-based parent company of Rockets & Pineapples, which backs Electric Pickle — plans to open more in Texas and the Southwest.

Best places to play pickleball

Smash Park
Since 2018, 2 locations in Iowa, planned for MN and NB.  4 indoor/2 outdoor courts at each location.  TVs, outdoor space, entertainment emphasis with offerting that include food, drink, special events, other games, community happenings.

Real Dill
High end retail destination concept with 7-10 pickleball courts at the core.  Family areas, other games, extensive shopping,  specialty classes on wellness and other offerings.  First one to open in St. Louis this year, future locations planned.

Few details and timing released other than its a $4 million project in Malvern, PA that will feature 16 courts and a full coaching program.  Seems primarily court-driven.

Goodbounce Pickle Yard
45,000 square feet in Louisville, KY.  Calls themselves an “eatertainment” complex with six pickleball courts, a game yard and a restaurant. They are partnering with a local restauranteur with a strong reputation   Will feature a rotating menu of fusion dishes like build-your-own tacos, burritos, nachos and bowls, gourmet burgers, fried chicken and small plates.  Launched by co-founder of a successful local micro-brewery.

Near Charleston, SC.  First announced in 2021, planned to open this year. The Pickle Bar is a new restaurant, retail and recreation concept that combines the growing popularity of pickleball with a southern-inspired bar and restaurant. Spanning over 40,000 sq/ft, the Pickle Bar will include a casual restaurant and bar, 9 outdoor pickleball courts, a game yard and a stage.

Camp Pickle
Planned for Huntsville, AL in 2024 will feature a “1940s national park/summer camp” motif, with food and beverage being 80% of revenues.   The indoor/outdoor locations are expected to measure 55,000-75,000 square feet, with 10-14 pickleball courts, plus other “old school” games such as darts and duckpin bowling.   Corporate and other events will be major piece of their plan.

Pickleball Business Advisors is brothers Bill and John Pryor.  We provide a variety of consulting services based on extensive experience in fitness business development, and research into the fast growing pickleball marketplace.  To initiate a feasibility assessment for your pickleball club, or for other consulting, contact us so we can learn about your project.