The Commercial Inspector | How Pickleball Is Filling a Void in CR

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How Pickleball Is Filling a Void in CRE

 May 31, 2023 |  Commercial Real Estate News, Property Investment |  real estate trends, business tips, building rennovation, retail space, special purpose facility

It’s official. For the third year in a row, the fastest growing sport in the United States is pickleball (according to enthusiasts of the sport at Pickleheads). Odds are good that you’ve already heard of the trend, had a friend fall victim to its not-quite tennis, not-quite ping pong charm, or maybe you’ve been bitten by the pickleball bug yourself. Despite plenty of skepticism, this fad has refused to die down, and commercial real estate investors are starting to take notice. But why pickleball, and what sort of impact can this casual recreational activity have on the CRE landscape? Today, let’s take a swing at de-mystifying the surprising impact of pickleball.

What is Pickleball, Anyway?
For those who are more than an arm’s length away from the game, pickleball may just seem like a game with a funny name that’s too similar to a number of other more well-established sports. Are there really enough things that make pickleball unique enough to have a draw all on its own? Well, based on its sustained growth, signs seem to indicate that it does.

Pickleball is a sport that can be played competitively with two individuals facing off, or in the form of doubles, with four total players. With a court size matching the measurements of a standard badminton court (44-feet long, 20-feet wide) and a net raised 34-36 inches high, pickleball courts take up around a quarter the size of a tennis court, resulting in players much closer to one another throughout the course of a match.

After an under-handed serve with a paddle a bit larger than a table tennis racket, something like a wiffle ball sails diagonally across the court and suddenly, you’ve got a game of pickleball. From there, most pickleball matches will appear similar to tennis, badminton, or ping pong games, maybe with a heightened focus on the net game and a few additional odd terms thrown in there (such as “Dink,” “Falafel,” or “Kitchen”). At first glance, it might be difficult to see why this sport has caught on like it has over any number of other sports. The answer seemingly points to the perfect game for a peculiar time.

Why is Pickleball Becoming So Popular?
One characteristic that makes pickleball so unique is its ability to allow many different types of people to compete with one another. Because of the smaller size of the court, kids aren’t as disadvantaged, and older people who have a bit more trouble making quick cross-court movements also have more room to participate. Thanks to its similarities to other recognizable sports, the barrier to entry is low, and the materials required to play don’t require a large investment.

With all of those benefits mentioned, likely the biggest reason for pickleball’s explosion in popularity traces back to that close proximity inherent in the sport. After the sense of isolation that many felt during lockdowns, the public flocked to new social experiences, some which have come to be known as competitive socializing. Meeting this demand, businesses have formed around these newer models of casual competition to great success. People want to spend time around one another and, thanks to how easily anyone can step onto the court and participate, pickleball just might tap into this market demand better than anyone else.

Why Are CRE Investors Excited About Pickleball?
To many, pickleball feels like it’s picking up steam with no clear end in sight - and commercial real estate investors are taking appropriate action. With stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond and Foot Locker closing, malls and other larger commercial properties continue to struggle with traditional brick and mortar retail tenants that used to provide reliable foot traffic. Property owners who are searching for a use for their spacious vacant floor spaces may be able to look to pickleball for answers.

As mentioned, pickleball courts only take up a quarter the size of a tennis court, and some investors are taking the plunge by repurposing unused big box store space for courts in their malls. By attracting a diverse array of consumers, property owners believe that a rise in foot traffic for active, recreational activities could result in revitalization for neighboring businesses and finally utilize spaces that are now sitting unused.

CNN’s Nathaniel Meyersohn points toward pickleball projects taking up anchor space in Connecticut, Missouri, New Jersey, and New Hampshire as a few examples where property owners see the value in this continuing trend, with more conversions planned in Alabama, Texas, and Minnesota within the next year. Some of the most successful CRE investors tend to find value in following the pulse of the public. With pickleball, some current questions in commercial real estate might have an answer.

National Property Inspections is the nation’s leading voice on commercial property inspections. Connect with our National Accounts department to discuss how we can satisfy your needs.

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