Pickleball mania breathes new life into Arizona mall

By Liliana Salgado

TEMPE, Arizona (Reuters) – The pickleball craze in the United States has reached new heights with the opening last weekend of the first “Picklemall,” an indoor sports facility inside a mall in Tempe, Arizona.

The courts at the Arizona Mills mall in a suburb of Phoenix will be open to anyone hoping to play pickleball, a fast-paced paddle sport similar to tennis and badminton, though it is played on a smaller court with a net, using a perforated plastic ball.

One of the unique features of Picklemall was its replay system, Picklemall CEO West Shaw told Reuters.

“When you have a great replay that you want to memorialize, you go here and you hit the replay button and the replay is saved,” Shaw said.

The replay is possible with the cameras installed on each court, allowing players to view recordings of their matches.

The founder behind Major League Pickleball and Picklemall, Steve Kuhn, thinks this partnership with Arizona Mills mall will bring new life to dying shopping malls.

“Shopping malls in general have to find ways to bring more people here to make it more experiential… You can’t have this fun ordering something on Amazon for your house,” Kuhn said about the project, which he expects will bring in more mall-goers.

“Once they’re here, they will check out the shops. They’ll go get some food.”

Pickleball was invented in 1965 and interest in it has skyrocketed in recent year. It is currently the fastest growing sport in the U.S.

“Right now we’re seeing growth of 153% year over year. There’s really no other sport like that in the world that is just growing so rapidly with such adamant fans of the sport,” Shaw said.

Kuhn said he hoped to take advantage of the public’s appetite for pickleball by installing more facilities across the country.

“You’ll see us opening more Picklemalls and our goal here is to create a great experience for serious Pickleball players, people who love the sport,” he said.

“We want this to be the most fun place to play it.”

(This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Steve Kuhn’s Name)

(Reporting by Liliana Salgado in Tempe; Additional reporting by Rory Carroll; Editing by Stephen Coates)