This month we sat down with Charlie Hauser, a senior operations advisor at World Gym International and the owner of Shasta Athletic Club, to discuss offering pickleball successfully.
Pickleball has been growing in popularity in recent years. Why do you think that is?
There are a number of reasons: the ease of entry, it’s an easy game to learn, and equipment needs are minimal and relatively inexpensive. The game naturalizes any physical dominance unlike many other sports. For example, women can play equally with men and old generations with young ones. Additionally, it’s very social, and the pickle society has been very open to introducing new people to the game. It’s been a while since we have all been outside, and it’s fun.
How have the members at your facility reacted to offering pickleball?
From my experience, everyone has been very acceptive of the sport at all private facilities, provided it’s organized and easily accessible. If you are wondering what is happening to your members, go out to the local courts and look around. You will more than likely find many of them there.
What were the start-up costs to offering the program?
Keep in mind space — a very valuable commodity — is your primary cost. It could be as low as simply lining off an appropriate surface to a full blown construction. Building a quality outdoor court could run upwards of $40,000 per court. Get professional help to design and create the best layout, surfaces and environment. With more and more courts coming online daily, players have choices.
What should club operators keep in mind if they’re considering offering the program?
It’s a separate business. You must learn the sport, the players, and their wants and desires. You are often competing with the public sector that’s offering a very similar product for free. You will need to dedicate resources to the game, marketing, staff, maintenance, programming and, most importantly, you have to sell memberships and/or court time. If you are not already doing that well in your core fitness business, this is no magic bullet.
Anything else you’d like to add?
If you can add pickleball, you have not missed the boat. There are approximately 165 players per court in the U.S. alone. The need for indoor facilities is skyrocketing, but it remains important you must do it well.