Pickleball across America (and Mexico)

Over the past 18 months, I’ve taken the opportunity to combine business, vacation, and personal travel with…..you guessed it, pickleball.

Armed only with my “Places to Play” app, 2 paddles, 2 balls and my sneakers, I set out to test the premise that a fun pickleball experience can be found anywhere — even for a total stranger walking into a new town or community. I am pleased to report that I was 100% successful in each effort, and that the pickleball culture embraced me with open arms. Though there were a few snarky curmudgeons at some courts, the vast majority of people were friendly, and welcoming of ‘the new guy’. Sample places I’ve played in the past 2 years:

  • Wilmington, Delaware (converted public tennis)
  • *Chestertown, Maryland (YMCA)
  • Fenway Park (yes, that Fenway Park)
  • *Shaker Heights, Ohio (converted public tennis)
  • Winnetka, Illinois (fancy country club)
  • *Kauai, Hawaii (dedicated courts)
  • *Pescadero, Mexico (converted local bball court)
  • Cabo San Lucas , Mexico (resort tennis court)
  • Tahoe City, California (converted public tennis)
  • Incline Village, Nevada (indoor and outdoor community center)
  • Groton, Connecticut (community center)
  • Mystic, Connecticut (YMCA and Indoor Sports Center)
  • Holly Hill, Florida (48 court dedicated pickle complex)
  • Orlando, Florida (dedicated indoor in converted retail / warehouse)
  • Wakefield, RI (4 court indoor converted warehouse)
  • Wautoma, Wisconsin (outdoor public park using dropped tennis net)
  • Stevens Point, Wisconsin (indoor sports center with newly designated pickle)

*Chestertown, Maryland

Eastern shore of Maryland……An unspoken condition for agreeing to visit my mother-in-law with my wife was that I be able to sneak away and find pickle. Sure enough, the brand spanking new Chestertown Y had no fewer than 8 courts lined out in their massive gym. My Connecticut Y membership got me in for free and I went several times for open play.

NOTES: Certain hours only, temporary nets, cool bleachers to watch play, 2 foot temporary fences between courts to restrain loose balls, informal round robin, players seemed to ‘self-level’ their groupings.

*Shaker Heights, Ohio

Cleveland suburb. Visiting my old college buddy who shares a recent pickleball obsession. His regular group meets at the recently converted local tennis courts at a middle school.

NOTES: Temporary nets, play can’t start til 9 am due to noise agreement with neighbors, stick your paddle in line in the chain link fence for rotation. Youngest player 11, oldest player 78. Great group

*Kauai, Hawaii

Our first ever trip to Hawaii and it was a challenge convincing my wife to leave beaches and hiking to play pickle, she has a bum shoulder and can’t play. But I succeeded by agreeing to visit botanical gardens (a good marriage involves creative compromises).

NOTES: I had 2 spectacular experiences. In Poipu Beach I played for the first time on 100% dedicated pickleball courts. So cool. In Princeville, a neighborhood of snowbirds had banded together to re-surface a local basketball court. Best view of my life from a pickleball court.

Both locations deployed the fairly standard ‘paddle rack’ rotation system to keep play flowing. Being Hawaii, both were used to out of town visitors.

*Pescadero, Mexico

Once again I had to negotiate a pass to leave my wife, daughter and grandchild to seek out pickle. This time in gritty inland Mexican village. Not a place I would have visited on my own but a google search revealed a Facebook page called “Pescadero Pickleball”. It hadn’t been posted on in a year but I took a shot and tried to find it. After driving through vegetable fields, sketchy looking farms and by roving chickens and stray dogs for miles, I suddenly heard the reassuring ‘plunk plunk plunk’ of pickleball.

NOTES: Snowbirds primarily from Seattle and Vancouver who stay at nearby resorts, had worked a deal with the town to convert their covered (thank god) basketball court to pickleball. AWESOME. Cost to play? 50 pesos ($2.98)

Each time we visit somewhere to play, we learn a bit more about this market! 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.

Author: Bill

Passionate pickler, entrepreneur, experienced fitness industry executive, startup specialist, business model consultant, mentor and advisor. Contact me to brainstorm, discuss or commiserate! .

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