Improving communities through sport

The Pickleball Surge: How Sports Facilities Can Join the Game

Rhythm & Rally

Image courtesy of Rhythm & Rally Sports & Events

Guest post written by Ali Yenchick

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In the swiftly growing world of sports and leisure, pickleball has surged to the forefront as a favorite among players of all ages, blending elements of tennis, badminton, and ping-pong into an engaging and accessible sport. Currently, there are 48.3 million players in America, according to the 2023 APP Pickleball Participation Report. Recognizing this trend, sports facilities across the country are keen to jump on the bandwagon. To guide these facilities through the process, Andrea Lee, Sports Facilities Director at Rhythm & Rally in Macon, GA, the nation’s largest indoor pickleball facility, shares valuable advice for those looking to make a mark in the pickleball community, ensuring they start off on the right foot and maximize their potential for success.

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Q: How can sports facilities identify their community’s needs in terms of pickleball facilities?

A: I would start by conducting a survey or sending information to your local organizations, churches, and development organizations to determine your community’s interests and needs. Afterward, you can market that information to your local commissioners, the mayor, and city council.

Q: How was pickleball introduced into your community?

A: “It was introduced in our Parks and Recreation department around 2006 or 2007. Our current pickleball association President, Mr. Paul Midkiff, was a major advocate and envisioned it as something the community might need. We started with an indoor program and gradually transitioned tennis courts to pickleball courts based on demand.”

Q: How has the demand for pickleball in your community evolved?

A: “The demand has grown tremendously! We initially transitioned some tennis courts to pickleball courts. A few years later, the demand was still so high that we transformed all the upper-level courts into pickleball courts. All of our courts were full almost every night of the week, and people were waiting behind them to play. The community’s need and desire for the sport was so apparent that Macon has recently redeveloped its old mall to build the world’s largest indoor pickleball facility, Rhythm & Rally, with 32 indoor courts.”

Q: What makes pickleball a unique sport?

A: “Pickleball is a sport anyone can play, from a four or five-year-old to a 90-something-year-old. It’s a longevity sport that you can play throughout your life. It’s not going anywhere. In fact, it’s a pro sport now, and we’re beginning to see pickleball programs develop at universities and even talk of offering scholarships to play pickleball.”

Q: What impact has pickleball had on your community?

A: “It’s had a profound impact. It’s a great asset for mental and physical health. We’ve had a pickleball tournament with participants in wheelchairs, and one of our coaches teaches adaptive pickleball. It truly is a sport for everyone. It also fosters community engagement, builds connections, and provides a platform for different generations to come together.”

Q: What advice would you give to a community considering the implementation of pickleball facilities?

A: “Plan carefully and allocate resources to ensure equitable access. It’s important to balance the needs of individuals who want to play in that area. But I firmly believe that if you build it, they will come.”

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