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Pickleball Boom Has Investors Circling the Growing Racket Sport

Pickleball Boom Has Investors Circling the Growing Racket Sport

The Picklr, an indoor pickleball franchise backed by Drew Brees, has raised $9 million as investment floods the space

America’s fastest-growing sport — pickleball — is experiencing a flurry of investment activity in 2024.

The Picklr, a Utah-based indoor pickleball franchise that counts former NFL player Drew Brees as an investor, owner/area developer of 30 locations across the Midwest and brand ambassador, recently closed its Series B funding round at a $59 million valuation, bringing its total raise to $9 million.

The pickleball franchise sold over 300 franchises in the last 12 months with 98 locations under contract, and by early next year, expects to have a presence in over 32 states to secure the title as the largest provider of indoor pickleball clubs globally.

Led by Pickleball Inc., the parent company to Carvana Professional Pickleball Association (PPA Tour), Pickleball Central, Pickleball Brackets/Pickleball Tournaments, PickleballTV, and TopCourt, The Picklr will have over 1,080 pro-style indoor courts available by the end of 2025.

“It’s no secret that the game of pickleball has exploded in popularity,” The Picklr CEO and co-founder Jorge Barragan said. “Guided by strong corporate leadership and inspired by our enthusiastic team of franchise owners, The Picklr heads into this next chapter with an eye on bringing even more courts and a strong, like-minded community to pickleball players worldwide.”

Courts in High Demand

Indoor pickleball facilities are high in demand, with The Picklr averaging founder memberships in the 500-600 range for new clubs, according to Jonathan Fornaci, Picklr’s president and chief operating officer.

The pickleball franchise brand will be promoted on the PPA Tour, live broadcasts, and commercials, while pickleball superstore Pickleball Central will be available at all Picklr locations for demos and pre-releases of new equipment. Pickleball-specific performance apparel band (and Picklr sister company) Stack Athletics will also be sold at Picklr locations. 

As for its global endeavors, The Picklr confirmed recently that final master franchise agreements will be announced for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union. 

Investors, Franchisees Embrace Pickleball

With pickleball participation surging (over 48 million adult Americans have played the sport at least once in the past 12 months, according to March 2023 research released by the Association of Pickleball Professionals) and infrastructure lacking in terms of courts, leading pickleball brands have won over investors. 

Late last month, urban pickleball purveyor CityPickle received a significant minority investment from The Avenue Sports Fund, a firm managed by former Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry, to establish additional permanent indoor pickleball facilities in New York City and other metro locations around the U.S. The investment amount was not disclosed.  

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credit: CityPickle

Pickleball has also emerged as the next hottest franchise, thanks to high demand for courts and the sport’s universal appeal to all generations and abilities. 

Along with The Picklr, indoor pickleball franchise Pickleball Kingdom is expanding to meet demand, with 140 clubs built or being built in the U.S. 

Similarly, Ace Pickleball Club has seven franchised clubs projected to open this year across the U.S. with a minimum of 16 franchises open and operating by the end of the year. The indoor pickleball brand offers unlimited open play and glow-in-the-dark technology as an added bonus. Dill Dinkers, another indoor pickleball franchise that launched in 2022 by husband-and-wife team Will and Denise Richards, has over 200 locations in development across the nation. 

The low-impact, inclusive sport has also found a fan in Life Time founder and CEO Bahram Akradi, who has overseen a rich investment into pickleball across the luxury athletic country club brand, including a seven-court pickleball complex in New York City. 

Akradi’s passion for (and investment in) the sport has paid off; in 2023, Life Time reported a 51% growth of pickleball players on its courts.

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