- Pickleball is said to be America’s fastest growing sport, with participation up 40% in two years.
- Wealthy owners and developers responded to the popularity by adding courts.
- High-flying real estate agent Ryan Serhant even became part-owner of a pickleball team.
In the 1990s, the biggest trend in home equipment was the wine cellar. The 2000s brought red velvet movie theaters to many luxury properties, while man caves and backyard “cabins” followed in the following decade.
In the 2020s, however, it’s all about the pickleball court.
A mix of tennis, badminton and ping pong played on a compact court with a net, pickleball has been crowned the fastest growing sport in the United States for the past two years by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association . The group’s annual report on participation in 120 popular sports and recreational activities estimates that American participation in pickleball has increased nearly 40% over the past two years, with 4.8 million players in 2021.
The sport has gone mainstream, with The New Yorker touting its democratic nature and chronicling its growing pains, asking, “Can pickleball save America?” The startup sector has also grown with companies such as Recess, Nettie and Disco Country Club offering cutting-edge gear for the Instagram era.
The pickleball courts also won the title of hottest new real estate amenity from outlets like Architectural Digest and Mansion Global, which chart the interiors and indulgences of the wealthy. Luxury single-family homes seeking buyers from Florida to Connecticut feature courts in their listings, and luxury communities such as Discovery Land Company’s Silo Ridge Field Club, where members pay a $150 initiation fee. $000 and properties start at $2.7 million, residents rushed to welcome. love the game with cool facilities.
It’s not just for the wealthy, though: Planned communities for working seniors advertise their sheer number of courts, and Airbnb listings touting home courts cost upwards of $500 a night.
As pickleball continues its evolution from a social sport born in a Pacific Northwest backyard to a regulated sport, even real estate bigwigs have gotten in on the action.
In July, super broker Ryan Serhant became co-owner of a Major League Pickleball team alongside former NFL star quarterback Drew Brees.
“It’s taking over the country,” Serhant said in an Instagram video announcing his joining.
Tennis players trade their grass for pickleball courts
The rise in popularity of the 65-year-old paddle sport can be attributed to a few factors: its age accessibility, for example. The game’s smaller court – a diminutive 20ft by 44ft compared to tennis’ 60ft by 120ft – allows young and old alike to traverse the playing area with relative ease.
Its compact size also means it’s easier to squeeze onto private property, new developments or existing sports fields.
Mike Tarvin, regional manager of pavement maintenance products company SealMaster, which manufactures the official court surface for USA Pickleball, told Insider that many of the requests he received were for conversions of existing courts. “If I get a sports enquiry, the conversation usually goes like this: ‘Hey, I have a tennis court, I’d like to convert it into two pickleball courts, what should I do?’ Tarvin said.
The conversion is relatively cost-effective, he said, which may explain why it’s not uncommon to see some kind of double sports pitch in homes.
Take the “pickleball/basketball court” featured in a listing for a $3.75 million property in Purchase, New York; the “PRIVATE tennis/pickleball court!” in a $750,000 home in Punta Gorda, Florida; or the $4 million Darien, Connecticut property marketed with “a brand new playground perfect for your very own pickleball court!”
Owners of luxury properties with room to spare have no problem splashing out on land designed for pickleball. Mauricio Umansky, who founded the Los Angeles real estate brokerage firm The Agency and is the husband of Kyle Richards in ‘The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,’ just added land to the back of their Encino home in $8.2 million, formerly owned by Smokey Robinson.
Luxury communities add pickleball as equipment
Just look at Mike Meldman’s Discovery Land Company, a series of resort-style communities from the Bahamas to Montana dotted with multimillion-dollar homes whose owners include Ben Affleck and Reese Witherspoon. While amenities range from archery to a private mountain for winter sports across the resort’s 30 locations, one reigns supreme: pickleball courts.
“The great thing about the game is that it appeals to people of all ages and it doesn’t require skill or athleticism,” Meldman told Architectural Digest. “It’s easy to play, but there’s a steep learning curve, which always makes it difficult as skills improve. It’s also great practice.”
Mike Leipart, managing partner of The Agency Development Group, which oversees the marketing of new housing developments and communities from Southern California to Mexico, said the sport was not just growing, but had “literally exploded”.
“Four or five years ago,” he said, “if you suggested to a developer that we should think about pickleball courts, the first question would be, ‘What is that? “”
Now, Leipart continued, the developers he works with see it as a go-to for attracting buyers.
The Cipriani Residences and The Standard Residences developments, both in Miami, Ascaya in Las Vegas, and Nekajui, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve property in Costa Rica, tout amenities.
Leipart predicts that the recent surge in popularity is just the beginning of what could be a pastime comparable to golf or tennis.
Using a different sporting metaphor to describe how far he thinks pickleball can go, he added: “I think we’re in the third or fourth innings, actually.”