A new indoor pickleball facility has just opened in the Columbus area with more on the way, catering to the sport's growing popularity.
The Pickle Shack, on US 42 just south of Delaware, opened over the weekend. With 10 indoor courts, owner Dave Ganim wants his location to be for everyone from the serious pickleball player to casual players.
Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in America with five million new players joining the courts this year alone.
Ganim attributes the growth to a few factors, such as people looking to get outside during the pandemic, the low cost to play, and ex-racquetball and tennis players looking for other options.
"Central Ohio is a hub of really good pickleball," he said. "We have over a dozen people with national titles from central Ohio."
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Pickle Shack, which is open 24 hours a day to members, costs $89 to join, plus $8 an hour for court rental.
Ganim also has plans to franchise and expand elsewhere in the Midwest and into Arizona. A second Pickle Shack location will eventually be built in Sunbury, he said.
"That's why I felt there's a problem; tennis clubs right now are just putting pickleball lines on top of their tennis courts," Ganim said. "It's not fair to pickleball. Pickleball deserves its own dedicated courts."
Ganim said he already owned his own buildings for the two Ohio locations, but finding other spaces has been challenging.
"The serious player wants to play 12 months a year, so there's no place to play indoors of consequence right now," he said. "That's why we built this indoor facility."
In addition to the Pickle Shack, the Real Dill Pickleball Club will be coming to Columbus in fall 2023 next to Ikea and Topgolf in the Polaris area, and Pickle and Chill is scheduled to bring six indoor courts in October to the Tennis Club building at 880 W. Henderson Road.
Making Columbus 'the pickleball capital of the United States'
Among Ohio pickleball players is Kent Mercker, the Dublin native who played major league baseball for 17 seasons and pitched a no-hitter for the Atlanta Braves in 1994. Mercker said he started playing because of Ganim and was immediately hooked. He has been playing for three years.
"We just noticed how many people in Columbus were actually playing the game," he said. "Dave saw that and ... he wants to make Columbus the pickleball capital of the United States."
Mercker, a Pickle Shack member and sponsored player, said he believes the Pickle Shack will draw a crowd of players who want to play as much as possible, even if they live far away.
"It would be hard to find a better facility, probably in the country, than what he's doing up there in Delaware," he said.
Mercker anticipates pickleball will eventually become a D1 sport on the collegiate level and even make its way to the Olympics.
David Seckel, co-founder of Columbus Pickleball, said there's a "perfect storm" of indoor facilities opening in the area right now.
Seckel said though it's possible to find outdoor courts during the day, there are times where it's busier than others, such as early morning and after work. In the colder months though, pickleball players have had to play on indoor tennis facilities.
"The problem with that is that the tennis facilities are obviously going to prioritize tennis, so pickleball is thrown in on random time," he said. "You can't really get the weekend games or anything like that."
New courts around town will help with demand, which Seckel expects only to grow.
"I don't see pickleball slowing down, to be honest," Seckel said. "I think it's going to continue to pop off. They're starting to get a lot more money in the sport."