Pickleball Facility Demand Requires $900M Influx, Study Says

The nationwide pickleball craze has created a need for more courts and supporting facilities. So much that it will require more than $900 million in construction costs to satisfy current and future demand.

That’s according to just-released research by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA). The trade association, which partnered with digital platform Pickleheads on the study, found it would take $902 million to build the 25,784 courts the organization is calling for. The study also states the country’s largest cities are far behind in pickleball infrastructure, with New York and Los Angeles falling 98% below the national average for dedicated courts per 10,000 people.

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“Pickleball is not just for old people or those in country clubs,” SFIA CEO and president Tom Cove said in a phone interview. “It has this breadth, and as a result we have to get it available in the widest range, from schools to parks and recreation and public facilities.”

SFIA reports there were 8.9 million participants last year—a 158% increase from 2019—with an average age of 35. The region that recorded the most participation was the South Atlantic (including Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas) with 1.9 million pickleball players. The Pacific (1.5 million) and East North Central (1.4 million) followed in second and third, respectively.

Pickleball exploded during the pandemic with millions in need of outdoor, socially distanced exercise and activities. The sport’s popularity also grew with help from LeBron James, Tom Brady, Kevin Durant and other celebrities who have invested in pickleball leagues and teams. Some current and former pro athletes from other sports have also picked up the paddle and are playing competitive matches in their waning years.

It remains to be seen how long the pickleball craze will last. Nonetheless, pickleball has been the nation’s fastest growing sport for the last five years, and stakeholders see no signs of slowing down. Major League Pickleball founder Steve Kuhn predicted that MLP will be a top-five sports league in the next five years in terms of viewership.

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