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As Pickleball Demand Grows, $900M Investment Is Needed, Report Finds

As Pickleball Demand Grows, $900M Investment Is Needed, Report Finds

Due to a lack of courts, New York and Los Angeles in particular may be sleeping on a huge opportunity to attract pickleball fans

As fitness enthusiasts enjoy group fitness activities and building a community as they work out, pickleball continues to see unprecedented growth that will require 25,000 courts and a $900 million investment to keep up with demand, according to a new report.

The Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) and Pickleheads, an online pickleball platform, have released the “2023 State of Pickleball: Participation & Infrastructure Report,” which examines pickleball participation and facilities in the U.S.

Ultimately, the report shows that many metropolitan cities in the U.S. are woefully behind the curve in meeting the growing demand for pickleball courts, with New York and Los Angeles 98% below national averages for dedicated courts per 10,000 people. 

Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Pickleball participation has increased by 85.7% year-over-year and 158.6% over three years, with 8.9 million participants in 2022. The number of new pickleballers exceeded the total number of pickleball participants in 2021. 
  • The average age of a pickleball participant is 35, with the 25-34 age group having the most pickleball participants. The 18- 24 and 65+ age groups were tied for the second-highest participation.
  • In 2022, participation increased in every area of the country, with the South Atlantic region (Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia) boasting 1.9 million pickleball players.
  • The Mountain area (Arizona, California and Utah) has the most devoted courts per 1,000 participants, more than double the national average. In contrast, the Middle Atlantic area (New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania) had the lowest court coverage, with just 1 dedicated court per 1,000 participants.

“The SFIA has been at the forefront highlighting pickleball’s rise as the fastest growing sport in America,” said Brandon Mackie, co-founder and COO of Pickleheads. “Now, leveraging our facility data, we can see this impressive growth has created an exciting challenge for the industry – addressing the court shortage in the U.S.”

Fitness Industry Players Step Up

While New York and Los Angeles aren’t meeting the needs as far as pickleball courts, according to the SFIA’s report, some major players in the fitness industry, such as Life Time and Ace Pickleball, are heavily invested in the trending sport.

For pickleball players in New York City, Life Time recently announced plans to build seven ground-level pickleball courts and a lounge next year, along with dedicated spaces for its popular group training programs. The luxury fitness and lifestyle operator credits the net sport for contributing to its increased traffic and revenue

credit: Life Time

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In an interview with That Pickleball Guy, Life Time founder and CEO Bahram Akradi commented that it’s the most unifying sport he’s seen in 44 years and that his company’s goal is to be the largest provider of pickleball nationally and that he’d like 700 courts by the end of the year and 1,000 by the close of 2024.

“It is the sport that we have to provide for our members,” Akradi emphasized, underscoring the popularity of the sport and how vital it is to the acquisition and retention of Life Time members.

Ace Pickleball, meanwhile, is strategically planning a nationwide expansion with plans to bring indoor courts to seven states. The company expects 40 clubs to open by the end of next year, bringing its model of unlimited open play and court reservations, premium sound and lighting, glow-in-the-dark technology, permanent nets/lines, grab-and-go refreshments and a pro shop to pickleball enthusiasts around the country.

The full 2023 State of Pickleball: Participation & Infrastructure Report can be accessed here.

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