The Fastest Growing Sport in America: How Pickleball is Reviving Vacant Mall Spaces

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the fastest growing sport in America
fastest growing sport in America

It’s an unlikely marriage but a fruitful one: pickleball, the fastest growing sport in America, is sweeping across vacant retail spaces in malls from coast to coast. With a staggering 159% increase in players within the last three years, pickleball isn’t just capturing hearts; it’s also capturing unused floor space in struggling malls. And it’s not just a win for sports enthusiasts—the trend offers a new lease on life for malls that have been hit hard by shifts in consumer behavior.

The Pickleball Phenomenon

Pickleball—a blend of tennis, badminton, and table tennis—has taken America by storm. From school gyms to community centers, the sport has become a favorite for people of all ages. But the love for pickleball doesn’t stop there; its user-friendly rules and minimal equipment needs make it accessible to almost everyone. And let’s not forget its unique name, a word that tends to stick in your mind like a catchy tune.

Did You Know?

The National Pickleball Association has noted a record number of new registrations, underlining its claim to the title of the fastest growing sport in America.

What’s Ailing Our Malls?

fastest growing sport in America

Malls used to be the social and shopping meccas of America. Not anymore. The retail apocalypse, spearheaded by the advent of e-commerce and changing consumer habits, has left malls struggling. The once-bustling havens are now grappling with vacant spaces that were previously occupied by anchor stores. And when an anchor store leaves, smaller stores often follow suit, creating a domino effect of closures.

Pickleball: The Perfect Tenant

Enter pickleball. At first glance, the sport might seem an unlikely savior for malls. However, it turns out to be the perfect tenant. Pickleball courts don’t require much renovation; any large, flat surface can be turned into a court. Furthermore, the sport aligns well with the trend of malls transitioning into spaces that offer experiences over goods.

How Do I Find a Place to Play?

Struggling to find a pickleball court to feed your newfound passion? You’re not alone. With the sport’s rapid growth, the phrase “public pickleball courts near me” has skyrocketed in search engine queries. Malls are stepping in to answer this demand, and some have even integrated court-locator apps into their websites.

Why This is a Win-Win

The pickleball-mall collaboration brings a whole new layer of excitement and utility. Mall-goers get an all-rounded experience: they can shop, dine, and now, play pickleball, all under one roof. Meanwhile, malls benefit from the increased footfall and dwell time. Even small shops can get in on the action, offering special discounts or promotions to pickleball players. It’s a cycle of mutual benefit that keeps the cash registers ringing and the paddles swinging.

But What About the Noise?

Sure, the sport has its critics. Traditional tennis clubs have raised concerns about the noise levels produced by pickleball. However, malls offer a unique advantage in this regard. Enclosed spaces can be designed with soundproofing to minimize noise disturbance. So, you can enjoy your game without worrying about disturbing that mindfulness yoga class happening a few doors down.

Beyond The Courts: Additional Amenities

Some malls are going the extra mile by offering amenities like pro shops, locker rooms, and even lounges for players to socialize after a game. There are plans to incorporate food courts and beverage stands specifically catering to the pickleball crowd. And why stop there? Some spaces have modular designs that allow them to host tournaments, social events, and even concerts.

The Road Ahead: Bigger and Better

Looking into the future, the sky’s the limit. Plans are in the pipeline for malls to not only expand their pickleball offerings but to become major tournament venues. These pickleball centers would be easily accessible, given the malls’ strategic locations near major highways and airports. Imagine flying into a city for a pickleball tournament and having all your retail and dining needs met at the same location!

Bottom Line

The fastest growing sport in America is more than just a sports trend; it’s a movement. By filling vacant spaces in malls, pickleball is offering a revitalizing boost to these once-neglected retail landscapes. And if you’re still pondering where to find public pickleball courts near me, it might be time to reconsider the mall not just as a shopping destination but as a comprehensive social and recreational hub.


Why is Pickleball coming to malls?

Pickleball is showing up in malls because it’s a win-win. Malls have the space and are eager to attract foot traffic. Pickleball is a growing sport that thrives on community vibes. Malls become community hubs, and pickleball gains more exposure. Boom, it’s a party for everyone!

Is Pickleball the fastest growing sport in America?

You betcha! Pickleball is skyrocketing in popularity faster than you can say “pickle.” According to multiple surveys and studies, it’s gaining players across all age groups. Its simple rules and social nature make it a go-to activity for people looking to smash some fun into their lives.

How many people play pickleball?

Hold on to your paddles, folks! More than 3 million people in the U.S. alone have jumped on the pickleball train, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. And those numbers are going nowhere but up. Get in the game!

Can Pickleball save the declining retail scene?

Well, it’s not a magic wand, but it’s certainly giving retail a much-needed adrenaline shot. By converting vacant store spaces into pickleball courts, malls and shopping centers are attracting a new, energetic crowd. This could turn the tide for retail, adding zest and zing to a scene that could use a pick-me-up.

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Ken Kochman is the founder and chief editor at His aim? Very simple. Cut through all the hype and misleading advertisements so you can make the best decision for your pickleball needs based on your level of play.

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