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Sarasota group plans 15 Florida pickleball centers, 1 in Tampa Bay

The first facility in the Pickleball Club’s $180 million project will open in Lakewood Ranch in December.
The Pickleball Club will open its first center at 1300 Sarasota Center Blvd. in Lakewood Ranch in December. The Sarasota company plans to open 15 private pickleball centers around the state at a cost of $180 million.
The Pickleball Club will open its first center at 1300 Sarasota Center Blvd. in Lakewood Ranch in December. The Sarasota company plans to open 15 private pickleball centers around the state at a cost of $180 million. [ The Pickleball Club ]
Published Sep. 22|Updated Sep. 22

Florida’s pickleball boom may just be getting started.

A Sarasota company has announced plans to build 15 private pickleball centers across Florida at a cost of $180 million, with the first set to open in Lakewood Ranch in December.

The Pickleball Club has locations picked out in Bonita Springs and Port St. Lucie, and is close to purchasing a site in Fort Myers. It’s also looking at sites in Venice and The Villages.

Co-founder and CEO Brian McCarthy said the company was looking at locations in Tampa Bay, but finding suitably priced 3- and 4-acre parcels in the area has been a challenge.

“Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties are all targets for us,” McCarthy said. “We are currently looking closely at a parcel in Pinellas Park. We get calls from St. Pete and Tampa every day asking if we are headed north. The answer is yes. We are actively planning for and working towards multiple club locations in the greater Tampa area.”

The 33,000-square-foot Lakewood Ranch center will have 12 indoor courts and two outdoor courts on 2.4 acres, as well as a retail store and cafe that sells sandwiches, salads, smoothies and beer and wine. In a statement, the company said it would invest $1 million in technology at each location, including real-time video clinics and platforms for reservations, rankings and pairings.

“The intensely technological, amenity-based customer experience will be like nothing else in the market today,” general manager Dominic Catalano said in a statement. “We will use the technology, championship grade courts, activities, and programming to provide ample opportunities for socialization before, during and after pickleball gameplay. Our members are looking to have great experiences, build relationships and have fun while pursuing a healthy lifestyle.”

Related: Photos: Pickleball is the new 'it' sport around Tampa Bay

Pickleball, a backyard game from the ‘60s and ‘70s, has in the past couple of years become the fastest-growing sport in America, with close to 5 million players, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. A mashup of tennis, badminton and pingpong, it’s played on smaller courts with smaller balls and paddles, and can be played as singles or doubles. It’s grown so fast in recent years that it’s spawned conflicts between tennis and pickleball players over limited tennis court space.

The Pickleball Club is still actively seeking investors for the project. McCarthy said the company had “several years of a head start in this space,” and has raised nearly $5 million from 47 investors in the past year and a half, along with $13 million in debt.

“The $180 million is the full capital need for all 15 clubs we are initially planning,” he said.

The company paid $824,500 for the Lakewood Ranch property last year, and $2.5 million in Bonita Springs and $995,000 in Port St. Lucie this year, according to property records in those areas.

“Florida is the most valuable market in pickleball,” co-founder and chief financial officer Matthew Gordon said in a statement, “and we plan on being the market leader during this all-important land-grab phase of the industry, given the tremendous demand for indoor court space.”

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