SARASOTA, Fla. - The Pickleball Club, based in Sarasota, is building a 33,000 square foot club in Lakewood Ranch complete with 12 indoor courts and two outdoors. That is just the beginning of their pickleball plans in Florida.
Players of all levels can relish in a good game of pickleball. It's a cross between tennis, badminton, and ping pong. Some refer to it as "ping pong on steroids."
Pickleball has become the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, with close to 5 million players – and more expected – rallying for court space.
"Three, four years ago, the average age was in the 50s," said Dominic Catalano, general manager of The Pickleball Club. "Now, it's closer in the 40s because all these young players are coming in finding it very competitive but also fun at the same time."
Over the next few years, The Pickleball Club is planning to spend $180 million building 15 private indoor clubs in Florida. The first one on Sarasota Center Boulevard in Lakewood Ranch is well on its way. The 33,000 square-foot facility will hold 12 indoor courts, two shaded outdoor courts with bocce and cornhole, locker rooms, showers, a concierge, pro shop, Pickles café, and more.
"And to top it off, we have our 1,200 square-foot mezzanine that overlooks the whole facility that we'll have up there for parties and viewing," Catalano said.
Each club will also be outfitted with $1 million in technology for players to record and review lessons with instructors. They already have sites picked out in Bonita Springs, Port St. Lucie and Fort Myers. They are also scouting land in Pinellas, Hillsborough and beyond.
"The Tampa area is such a hotbed for pickleball, and we've had a difficult time finding land up there," said Director of Marketing Nova Grande. "But we are close. We are very hopeful."
While it's a membership club, there will be clinics and lessons open to the public.
"Our goal is to bring a different style of pickleball, a club atmosphere, but a welcoming club atmosphere where you're not feeling that stuffiness," Catalano said. "We want everyone to feel welcome at all times."
The idea is to not create just an athletic facility but a social, educational, entertainment and health haven all under one roof.
"This will be almost like pickleball heaven," Catalano said.
In that case, the gates and the courts will open around the new year.
"It's really about community," Grande said. "It's about bringing the pickleball lifestyle to life."
If you're interested in joining, you can sign up now. There will be a cap on memberships as well as a waiting list to ensure courts don't get too crowded.