How much further can pickleball grow? Look at tennis

This article will examine the growth trajectory of pickleball by comparing and contrasting to the tennis market. Tennis is a useful model for comparison. Pickleball’s older brother, tennis, has a well established history that can be helpful in understanding where pickleball may be headed.  The market profile of tennis today is a reasonable predictor of where pickleball is likely headed. Note: contrary to much recently written, pickle ball is not “eating tennis”.

Tennis vs Pickleball, active player data

Players today:  Tennis 24 million, pickleball 5 million.
The growth of pickleball is a moving target, but there seems a general consensus that the number of “core players” is in the 5-8 million range.  By contrast, tennis has roughly 24 million core players, 3-5 times as many.  Is there any reason pickleball couldn’t reach or exceed that number?  The only one I can think of is if there is a shortage of court capacity.

Tennis and pickleball courts: the numbers

Total U.S. courts today:  Tennis 250,000, pickleball 30,000
Court capacity / supply and demand has reared its head as a major issue.  Schools, towns, private centers and individuals are building more and more to fill demand.  That said, there’s a long way to get even close to the tennis market.  It is very early days for development of pickleball centers, pickleball parks and pickleball clubs.  The infrastructure to support 10 or 20 million pickleball players is just beginning to emerge.  

Youth participation: tennis and pickleball

Youth participation:  Tennis, well established, pickleball just starting.
It’s hard to find accurate data on pickleball, but the tennis numbers are clearly far ahead.  Over 900 universities fund mens and womens tennis teams, pickleball has a few dozen club teams.  Tennis is well established at the high school level as well with very little funding for pickleball at this point.  Tennis camps are huge.  Pickleball just starting.  The path of a typical tennis player begins at a young age —- most pickleball players did not begin until at least middle age and many started in their sixties and seventies.  As the sport matures,  more youth programs and youth access is likely to be developed, a’la tennis, leading to more lifelong participants.

Professional visibility in both tennis and pickleball

 Prize money for tennis is in hundreds of millions.  Pickleball is roughly 5 million.   Again here is a relatively immature part pickleball that could see huge growth in the coming years.  As the player community grows, the interest in watching professionals increases

Tennis gear versus pickleball gear

Market value of gear: Tennis $900 million.  Pickleball $120 million.  
Huge room for growth in this area and hundreds of companies are jumping in to get a piece.  This is important for the growth of the sport as these companies promote it through various sponsorships, ambassador programs and public relations efforts.

While pickleball may seem pervasive and mature, it has nowhere near the market size, court capacity, youth penetration, professional visibility or gear sales of Tennis. Is there any reason to believe it couldn’t be as large a tennis someday?

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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