Austin, Texas and North Kingstown, Rhode Island. In our never ending quest to unearth (and play at) the coolest pickleball spots in America, we found a couple winners this month. My wife and I celebrated a huge wedding anniversary by spending 4 days is Austin, Texas. I planted her in a Spa one morning and then headed out to find a game (clever strategy don’t you think?). She was on to my plan but it worked for her too.
Austin Pickle Ranch
Austin Pickle Ranch, West 6th St
This is a cleverly constructed 7-court complex on the roof of a parking garage in West Austin. Murals cover various walls, and a cool airstream trailer serves as the check in desk. Nifty viewing areas feature Astro turf and Adirondack chairs. The court quality is outstanding, the nets perfect. I was there on a mild morning in October and I asked their front desk guy about rain….he said “thats not much of an issue around here, we’re more concerned about HEAT”. This is why I feel indoors is the way to go— but this place had a great charm, and from a business stand point, I’m sure leasing the roof of a parking garage is a hell of a lot cheaper than retail space on the first floor. I stepped in to a great game…..my partner was bare-chested and tattooed, which concerned me at first, but he tuned out to be a nice guy and a quality player.
Rhode Island is the smallest state, but they’ve got a thriving pickleball culture that was mostly outside (including a re-claimed military air strip) until recently. Several spots have opened, and I recently stopped in to play at Lil Rhody.
Located in a nondescript strip mall off of route 1, Lil Rhody features 5 courts, each named after a cool Rhode Island town. The surface is slightly cushioned which is really nice and the lighting is good. I did hit the ceiling once, but the ceilings are plenty high for regular play. When I saw pictures and video on the website, I was concerned about tightness…..courts had more room around than I thought (still a bit tight on the sides though). They have a nice system for corralling errant balls.
Interesting model — 5 courts, low cost membership, some open play is free for members, other sessions require a small fee. I don’t know what they pay for rent, but probably not huge given the area. P.S. this location serves a handful of small towns in Rhode Island, not the city (Providence), and not high end suburbs.
One impressive part of the experience was that our advanced group was one short so the young lady working the front desk jumped in. She was an awesome player and a joy to play with. This is the kind of staff necessary for that “vibe” a good Pickleball club will have.
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