Pickleball has been deemed “America’s fastest-growing sport,” and its courts are taking over vacant malls and retail stores, according to the National Association of Realtors®. But are they a good fit for Pennsylvanians?
A crossover of tennis and ping-pong, pickleball has grown in popularity since the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously considered a sport for retirees, people of all ages have been enjoying the game in recent years.
An average of 130 new pickleball courts are added per month nationwide, according to USA Pickleball. Still, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association estimates that nearly 25,000 courts must be built to keep up with the demand.
Although pickleball courts are now a hot amenity for communities across the country, they’re known to be noisy places and the cause of neighborhood complaints. As a result of both this and the growing demand, more pickleball courts have been popping up indoors.
“Pickleball is the new frontier in commercial real estate,” Chief Growth Officer of Ace Pickleball Club Diego Pacheco told NAR. “Landlords also love it because it brings more foot traffic from people with spending power. And it’s good for attracting and negotiating new leases.”
Ace Pickleball Club is a recreational and tournament pickleball franchiser that sells franchise licenses and opens new pickleball locations. They’re on track to sell up to 100 franchise licenses by the end of 2023 and to open more than 50 locations country-wide by the end of next year.
Vacant retail spaces are often ideal pickleball venues. Reducing the need to build from the ground up saves money and time, bringing new life to an otherwise dead space. Ace Pickleball Club retrofits vacant retail space in about 100 to 120 days to make use of empty commercial property and get players on the courts faster.
However, different areas have different needs, and not all regions have retail space to spare. John Birkeland, commercial real estate brokerage advisor and member of the Realtors® Association of York & Adams Counties, speaks on pickleball’s place in commercial real estate in his area, as well as where else he sees possible pickleball potential.
“Pickleball opportunities can be appealing to retail landlords, but in our region, retail continues to be pretty strong with total occupancies in the mid-to upper-90 percentiles. Depending on the submarket and economics, pickleball as a sustainable long-term retail tenant can be challenging. I see much more opportunity in the office markets. As landlords look to entice tenants back to office spaces, offering pickleball as an amenity is a savvy strategy. Pickleball courts are a good answer to the question of what to do with vacant office space or under-utilized parking areas.”