Pickleball and its effects on private tennis clubs that don’t have fitness facilities

Over the course of the last few years I have noticed that the sport of pickleball has increased significantly in the northeast.  I first learned of the sport back in high school when it was introduced to us as an activity in gym class.  Being a tennis player at the time it was easy for me to pick up on.  It has since been a growing sport across America and you are beginning to see league and pickup games spring up all over.  The demographic for this sport seems to appeal to those who are in their 50-60’s as the court is the same size of a badminton court yet played with a net, paddles and a plastic ball.

Now 16 years later since I was introduced to the sport and remaining in the tennis industry I have seen how clubs have tried to incorporate other racket sports into the activities offered.  The only problem with this is it is not a viable income resource for most private clubs.  Why?

The real issue that a player can play just about anywhere for a fraction of what the cost of court time would be for a club to turn a profit.   Now if you are just trying to fill dead time during the afternoon and you are not making any money as a club then well it’s at least traffic in the door and exposure to your facility.  So if you are a private club owner and you are reading this, don’t look at pickleball as an income generator simply because you will fail.

Success by incorporating something like this into your private club is simply traffic.  You are reaching another demographic that otherwise would not be stepping foot inside your club.  If you have decent programs then this person may know someone who plays tennis and would like to participate in other programs.  That is the real success of pickleball in a private club’s eyes.

After reading an article titled: Pickleball and Tennis can they be friends?; it occurred to me that the answer is not as straight forward as we would like to think.  From a physical activity perspective and advocate of wellness absolutely it is a win-win for everyone.  From a standpoint of future economic growth for the older demographic for tennis?  I don’t think it will reap the same benefits.

I have been involved in tennis for most of my life and well I have seen the 50-80 year old tennis players, and I can’t help but say to myself when I’m that age I still hope I can hit a ball.  But what if there is an alternative to where I don’t have to cover as much ground am able to play a sport similar to tennis and remain competitive for much longer once my knees, and body begin to wear out.  The last thing for a tennis player to go is their hands, feel and touch.

Am I ready to jump on board to play pickleball just yet?  The answer for me is not quite yet but I am hoping in the future there are more competitive leagues out there for my generation and hopefully for others as well.  If the fitness industry and local recreation leagues are smart they will begin to learn more about these games and begin incorporating them into their programming in the years to come.

I would love to hear others thoughts on this as well!


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