What’s Behind the Pickleball Boom?

What’s Behind the Pickleball Boom?

Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in America. Last year, the number of Americans playing increased by 53%, for a total of 13.6 million, making it the fifth-most popular sport in terms of participation. This makes it roughly equivalent to those who played baseball (16.7 million), soccer (14.1 million), and skied (13.1 million). 

Pickleball still trails tennis (23.8 million) and basketball (29.7 million) by wider margins. However, it’s increasingly difficult to see the sport as simply a fad, especially with major investments in the space in terms of building public courts at the local level, indoor facilities, two professional leagues, expansion to international markets, etc.

Even more impressive than the 53% increase in the number of players is the 111% growth in ‘core players’, defined as those who play more than eight times a year. It’s translated into the number of public pickleball courts in the US increasing by 650% over the last 7 years. 

Private operators are also seeing an opportunity. CityPickle was founded in 2022 and currently has multiple locations in New York City, including 14 courts in Central Park’s Wollman Rink. There are also franchises in other parts of the country, including Ace Pickleball with 80 franchises awarded, Pickleball Kingdom with 140 awarded, and Chicken N Pickle with 16 locations.

Gyms and golf clubs, such as Life Time Fitness and Invited Clubs, are also investing as if pickleball is more than a fad. Life Time now has nearly 700 courts across 170 locations and has invested $60 million into building courts. The gym saw 51% growth in pickleball players at its clubs and forecasts having 1,000 courts in the near future. Invited Clubs is the largest operator of private golf clubs and has spent between $10 and $12 million in the last 3 years and has nearly 500 courts.

Finsum: Pickleball was the fifth-most-played sport in the US last year. It’s surprising since most people had never heard of the sport until a couple of years ago. Yet, serious sums of capital are flowing to it, indicating that it’s more than a fad.

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    The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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