Feb 7, 2023 - Sports

6 pickleball social clubs opening across Florida

Illustration of a pickleball paddle hitting an exploding ball

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

If you thought pickleball was a flash-in-the-pan fad, a bunch of investors are lining up to bet against you.

Driving the news: Matt Gordon, an attorney and investment banker who co-founded The Pickleball Club with Sarasota residents Brian and Valerie McCarthy, tells Axios that the company is on track to open six indoor 34,000-square-foot pickleball facilities in Florida.

  • The first to open will be in Sarasota's Lakewood Ranch in early April, followed by Port St. Lucie, Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, Venice and The Villages.

Details: Each facility will have 12 to 16 air-conditioned courts, plus cafes, pro shops and locker rooms. Think pickleball-centered social club, with plenty of space and reasons to hang out, like food, drinks, outdoor bocce ball and corn hole.

  • After an initiation fee, annual membership dues break down to about $125 a month.
  • Courts will be equipped with video cameras so players can study their footage to improve their games. Staff will also offer lessons and clinics.

What they're saying: "Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the history of sport," Gordon said. "We identified that potential early."

By the numbers: About 5 million people played pickleball in 2021, but a new report by the Association of Pickleball Professionals suggests more than 36.5 million people played pickleball from August 2021 to August 2022 β€” 14% of the adult U.S. population.

Flashback: The founders originally looked at converting the old Stardust roller rink in Sarasota for the project. But they decided to build a bigger space in Lakewood Ranch after noticing a surge in pickleball popularity during the pandemic.

What's next: The ambition now is to open 15 clubs across the Sunshine State β€” a "beachhead operation," Gordon called it β€” before expanding into the Southeast.

  • Gordon says they've raised $12 million in equity funding to date and are in the middle of another round.

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