Can Pickleball Save Dying Malls?

The popular sport is getting backlash for taking over parks and other facilities. Now, the industry is partnering with mall developers to transform old department stores into pickleball courts.

1 minute read

May 29, 2023, 6:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Four people playing pickleball on outdoor court

Ron Alvey / Pickleball game

There are all kinds of plans for what to do with ‘dead malls’ and other largely obsolete buildings. For some, the answer comes in the form of a wildly popular new recreational activity: pickleball. 

As Nathaniel Meyersohn explains in a piece for ABC 7 NY, “Consumers are craving fun, social experiences after years of limited gatherings during the pandemic, and they have shifted their spending from goods to experiences like theaters, arcades and amusement parks.” Physical malls were struggling even before the pandemic as e-commerce and more modern outdoor malls displaced the traditional suburban mall.

Meanwhile, “The number of people playing pickleball grew by 159% over three years to 8.9 million in 2022, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, a trade group.” But some park users have grumbled at the conversion of other park facilities into dedicated pickleball courts, prompting pickleball court builders to looks elsewhere. “So pickleball is heading to malls, where players can play and then grab a bite to eat or do some shopping, landlords hope.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in ABC 7 NY

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