Paddle Power: Resorts Trade Tennis for Pickleball

Meetings and events are also embracing the team building value of the new sport

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the United States, with more than 30 million players across the country. This hybrid sport combines elements of tennis, badminton, and ping pong and has become increasingly popular among people of all ages and skill levels. Sports facilities and resorts around the country are scrambling to build pickleball courts or convert current tennis or basketball courts to keep up with the demand for the sport.

This phenomenon is growing at resorts and hotels, said Adam Zarczynski, senior associate at Hotel & Leisure Advisors, a hospitality consulting firm.”Pickleball has become a sport that many use for networking, similar to golf,” he said. “Resorts are realizing that this activity is something that is attracting players of all ages and are trying to incorporate this into their activity-offering now to appeal to these players, and even some who have never played before.”

One property embracing the pickleball phenomenon is the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, which has six courts on-site and even offers pro services. Another Hilton property, The Woodlands Resort, Curio Collection by Hilton, in The Woodlands, Texas, features over 21 courts dedicated to pickleball for indoor and outdoor use. The property also has two on-site certified pickleball instructors.

Leading the charge is The Sports Facilities Companies (SFC), which manages the largest network of sports and recreation facilities in the country. They report that demand for pickleball facilities has skyrocketed in 2024, with nearly half of their locations now catering to the sport. The newly opened Rhythm and Rally Sports and Events in Macon, Georgia, exemplifies this trend. This converted shopping mall boasts the title of the world’s largest indoor pickleball facility, a testament to the sport’s growing popularity.

The allure of pickleball lies in its accessibility. Unlike golf, with its intimidating equipment and etiquette, pickleball requires minimal athleticism and welcomes players of all ages and skill levels. This creates a relaxed environment where colleagues can bond over friendly competition, fostering communication and camaraderie in a way that traditional team-building activities often achieve.

Pickleball fosters social engagement and camaraderie in a relaxed setting, promoting communication and a sense of belonging among colleagues. Unlike the often-forced interactions of traditional team-building activities, pickleball offers a more organic way for coworkers to connect and build relationships.

According to SFC, meeting and event planners have identified the sport as a viable activity options for groups, similar to golf and tennis. As individuals engage in pickleball, they are exposed to a sport that encourages interaction, fosters relationships, and promotes camaraderie. This social aspect of the game enhances one’s communication skills and sense of belonging.

“Pickleball is more than a sport; it’s a catalyst for community development and social engagement,” said Jason Clement, CEO of The Sports Facilities Companies.

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