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Picklemall hopes to bring pickleball to a mall near you

"Pickleball may be a lifeline to our country’s struggling shopping malls. It is the fastest growing sport in the world, needs to occupy large spaces and will generate a shopping malls much needed foot traffic." - IGRE

Farewell, complaining neighbors? Picklemall says that its indoor concept for pickleball courts comes with several built-in benefits like less noise.

Some malls are in a pickle as stores close. But a pickleball startup may come to the rescue.

Picklemall, a new startup, aims to respond to both the struggling retail real estate industry and the increasing demand for pickleball by transforming vacant mall space into indoor courts. This July, the startup will open its first US location in Tempe, Ariz. with 24 courts.

In case you haven't noticed, pickleball, a paddle sport played on what looks like a mini-tennis court, is arguably the trendiest sport in America—even though it's actually been been around since 1965. However, it has exploded in popularity since the pandemic, thanks to its reputation for being easy to learn and affordable – growing from an estimated 5 million players in 2021 to 8.9 million in 2022.

Picklemall founder and billionaire philanthropist Steve Kuhn, who has provided the startup with funding, said that their solution will address a significant need for more pickleball courts. There is one tennis court for every 30 tennis players but only one pickleball court for every 250 players, he told Yahoo Finance Live (video link).

"As anyone who's tried to play on a public court and waited for hours to play would tell you, we need more courts, and Picklemall is working to try and bring more courts and bring a great experience to more players," Kuhn said.

Picklemall says that its indoor concept comes with several built-in benefits, including a controlled climate and championship-style courts.

It’s also working to address growing complaints about pickleball’s loud noise when played outdoors, Pickleball CEO West Shaw said. According to one study by a retired engineer and Carnegie Mellon University professor, a solid pickleball hit registers 70 decibels of noise, more than tennis and nearly as much as a vacuum cleaner.

"W]e're doing our best to mitigate those complaints by putting sound dampening devices in our facilities, trying to capture some of that noise," Shaw said. "The great thing is, being indoors, we don't have to deal with the neighbors hearing the noise. We just have to deal with our tenant."

Some have raised questions about whether pickleball is a fad. However, Picklemall’s aggressive growth strategy represents what Kuhn – who founded Major League Pickleball in 2021 – sees as a sport that is here to stay. The startup plans to open 50 new spots nationwide over the next two years, from San Antonio to Chicago.

Shaw said that Picklemall is using Google queries to figure out where pickleball players are located across the US, but the sport’s "unprecedented" growth across the country is helping the startup choose its next locations largely based on its own growth strategy.

"You can see sometimes four generations of a family playing together, and I think that makes [pickleball] completely unique and special,” Kuhn said. “It's building family memories for people.”

Jared Mitovich·June 18, 2023 - originally published in yahoo!finance

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