Rise of Pickleball Sparks Opening of Franchises Nationwide

Nearly 50 years ago, the sport of pickleball was invented in the state of Washington. Today, about 36.5 million players engage in the sport, which combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. 

To satisfy the demand for pickleball, facilities have transformed tennis, basketball and volleyball into pickleball courts. The challenge with multi-use playing surfaces, however, is that players are often displaced, and not enough courts are available. 

By designing indoor facilities that are designed for a single sport—pickleball—Ace Pickleball Club hopes to alleviate the court shortage. Jay Diederich and Joe Sexton launched the company in February 2023 and plan to open more than 30 franchises in mall and retail locations across eight states.

Ace Pickleball Club plans to allow for more court time to accommodate the growing number of players by developing the new franchises with indoor, rather than outdoor, courts, 

“The growth the sport of pickleball is experiencing is astronomical, and if you love to do something, you don’t want to be limited by the weather, daylight hours or neighborhood sound ordinances,” says Brianne Carter, chief operations officer. “We’re just like your local gym—open early and late to accommodate our guests’ and members’ schedules.”

The clubs provide a climate-controlled environment, cushioned courts and overhead lighting that has been meticulously positioned, she says. The facilities feature drill areas, and standard-sized, premium-sized and skinny courts to meet members’ and guests’ needs. 

After opening the first Ace Pickleball Club in Roswell, Georgia, the team listened to customer feedback and plans to make adjustments in future locations. 

“We believe listening to our members and their feedback is key,” she says. “We will continue to listen and refine in every location we open.” 

Just like with any other sport, pickleball requires certain environmental aspects to create an optimal experience. For example, lighting plays an important role in being able to see the ball well, and poor lighting can significantly impact a player’s game. Full-court fencing on dedicated pickleball courts also enhances the playing experience by keeping the balls in the court space. Finally, cushioned courts are easier on joints and allow the ball to bounce better.

“We have had feedback from guests that when playing on other types of courts, they must take a day off to allow their joints to recover,” she says. “When they play on our courts, they can play multiple days in a row.”

Each Ace Pickleball Club location is also equipped with PlaySight cameras positioned at every court. Guests can scan a QR code and record a match that downloads to their phone and then watch it later or post it to social media to share their game-winning shot. The clubs also offer a glow-in-the-dark UV lighting system.

“While pickleball is a serious sport, the word most used when people talk about why they play is fun,” she says. “The glow-in-the-dark element adds a layer of entertainment we incorporate into specific events.”

To help players to learn the sport, the club organizes free Pickleball 101 Clinics, which have been at max capacity. At the end of the sessions, participants schedule times to return and play together. 

Carter says the sport has rose in popularity because there’s no age limit for pickleball, it’s fun and while it takes skill to be at a higher level of play, the barrier to entry is low.

“We’ve all seen videos of toddlers successfully getting the ball over the net, and the memes pointing out that your grandparents, both wearing two knee braces each, can run you ragged on the court,” she says. “Once you get the basic rules and flow of the game down, it’s easy to play,” she says. 

Looking forward, the company plans to continue to support the growth of the sport. 

“Our mission is to expand the sport of pickleball by inspiring new players and providing enthusiasts of all skill levels access to a welcoming community, optimal playing conditions and opportunities for growth,” she says.