Pickleball takes its place as must-have luxury equipment
Pickleball, a mix of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, is all the rage, and luxury property developers are racing to follow.
About 4.8 million people play, according to USA Pickleball, the sport’s governing body. The game can range from a social activity to play with children to a fast-paced, competitive game.
“Everyone calls pickleball the great equalizer,” said Matt Nixon, marketing manager at Southworth Development. “You could be 10, 12, play with anyone of any age.” He said that for the Abaco Club, a Southworth-owned development in the Bahamas, recreational activity serves as a key channel for building community around health, wellness and the enjoyment of sport.
For some shoppers leaving country club neighborhoods, pickleball is already a daily pastime. They are drawn to on-site courts because it gives them a sense of community close to home.
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“Buyers are definitely asking for pickleball,” said Wendy Pines, sales manager for the $1.5 million Casamar Residences in Pompano Beach, Florida. “They are delighted that we have it on the property and it appeals to people of all ages. It has become a popular social activity where people can congregate and congregate. Lots of people play doubles, like tennis. You always have people waiting to get into the game. It’s become so popular.
Since pickleball appeals to all ages, many types of properties can benefit from offering courts as part of their equipment packages. A far cry from stripped-back public park facilities, pickleball courts are popping up in luxury developments coast-to-coast with thoughtful touches including plush seating and branded amenities.
“Whether it’s a retirement community, a planned home development with a variety of product types for different ages and demographics, or a private club, you name it, they add pickle[ball]said Mary Cook, a Chicago-based designer specializing in multi-family developments and amenity facilities.
The case of the new pickleball courts
Requiring little more than a badminton court, a 34-inch net, paddles and a perforated plastic ball, pickleball is easier to accommodate than other popular equipment, such as golf courses, swimming pools or bowling alleys. Promoters go all out, often pairing recreational activity with cocktail bars and other social additions.
In Miami, the Standard Residences have chosen to design an interior courtyard that can be transformed into a party room. Giant disco balls will spin from the ceiling, while spectators and players can don branded clothing and paddles inspired by Wes Anderson’s film ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’. The building, with a pied-a-terre offered at a mid-$700,000, is expected to be completed in 2023.
“We were thinking about what kind of sport we could put in the building without affecting the people in there. If you paddle[ball] or bowling, it can get too noisy and it becomes a problem,” said Carlos Rosso, CEO of Rosso Development, the company behind the Standard Residences. “We have a bleeding karaoke bar in the pickleball court area, so this whole scene will be a really cool way to activate the building.”
In the Bahamas, the Abaco Club has transformed an underused area into pickleball courts and a half-court basketball court. The bright blue courts sit along a quiet, palm-lined road just steps from the beach. Lights illuminate the courts for evening games. Chalets on the Caribbean property cost up to $3 million and villas are expected to cost up to $12 million.
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“It opened up the whole area and changed the dynamic,” said Matt Young, outdoor activities director for the Abaco Club. “Plans are underway to build a kind of outlet, with a coffee stand in the morning where people can sit and watch pickleball or have a cup of coffee between games.”
In the evening, players and spectators can have a beer or a cocktail while enjoying a match.
Use of existing tennis and basketball courts
Before setting up dedicated courts, luxury promoters can try out pickleball at their facilities for negligible cost. They can add lines to existing tennis and basketball courts and deploy temporary nets.
The Abaco Club gauged residents’ interest in the game by adding stripes to its tennis court before moving to smaller courts. Residential developer Optima Inc., which has properties in Scottsdale, Arizona and Chicago, did the same by painting stripes on indoor basketball courts.
“The requirements are similar to an indoor basketball court, so it’s an easy addition. The most important thing to consider when planning a pickleball court is space and creating the stripe overlay on the existing court in a consistent manner,” said David Hovey Jr., AIA, President, Director of Operations and Principal Architect of Optima, Inc.
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To keep up with demand, they have planned an outdoor pickleball stadium in their next luxury apartment tower, 7190 Optima Kierland. The 216-unit tower is set to open in 2023 in Scottsdale, with prices ranging from $1.75 million to $3.25 million. “We’re excited to build resident programming around this new feature, possibly hosting a tournament,” Hovey said.
Take it to the next level with lessons and coaching
Coaches, who act as ambassadors for the sport, can generate enthusiasm in residents, organize tournaments and take the hobby to the next level. Typically, coaches are experienced racquet sports players and natural community organizers.
“’Fun Bob’ is our resident professional tennis and pickleball player. He is involved in all the lessons, organizing tournaments on a weekly basis,” Mr. Young said. “He is also involved in the local community program; he’s a fantastic guy and our members love him. He’s a great tennis and pickleball player, and sometimes his line calls are questionable, so you need to keep an eye on that.
Celebrities can also add to the excitement around sports. “We want to bring famous artists to the opening of the pickleball court,” Mr. Rosso said. “I don’t know if you know this, but Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Ellen DeGeneres and even Kim Kardashian have pickleball courts in their homes. Maybe we can get them to play doubles.
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The comfort of the elements and for the spectators
If not indoors, courts require a less windy location than tennis due to the lightweight, perforated plastic ball involved. Even if a court is surrounded by lush tropical palm trees and cabanas, being too near the ocean wind can spoil the fun of a game.
“We took the location into consideration because you don’t want to have a lot of wind with such a light ball. The building blocks the wind from the ocean,” Ms Pines said of Casamar’s planned court near the stadium. ocean at Pompano Beach.
It is common for people to watch games while biding their time on the pitch. Luxury developers take this into consideration, building shacks and cafe structures to support everyone who meets around the sport.
The goal is to make a pickleball court “a very welcoming area with shade and seating for spectators, as well as a summer kitchen, so it can be more of an event instead of pickleball on his own,” Ms Pines said.
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