NYC’s CityPickle Gets Investment To Fuel Urban Pickleball Expansion

CityPickle joins Life Time and a spate of pickleball-focused franchise concepts in a race to fill surging demand for courts nationwide

CityPickle, an urban pickleball purveyor, is gearing up to build more permanent indoor pickleball clubs in New York City and other metropolitan areas around the United States, fueled by a significant minority investment from The Avenue Sports Fund, a firm run by former Milwaukee Bucks owner Marc Lasry.

It’s welcome news to city-dwelling picklers, who have been woefully underserved, according to a 2023 participation and infrastructure report that revealed major metropolitan cities in the U.S., like New York and Los Angeles, have been in a pickle — lacking the infrastructure needed to meet the player demand for the fast-growing sport. The report stated that 25,000 courts and a $900 million investment were required to match the enthusiasm, demonstrating just how popular pickleball has become.

CityPickle co-founders Mary Cannon and Erica Desai, who launched the urban pickleball brand in the summer of 2021, noted that they have been experiencing an “overwhelming demand” for increased access to the sport. The brand has been opening facilities that offer a one-stop shop for physical activity and fun, with pickleball clubs that combine indoor courts and a full bar and restaurant as well as seasonal courts.

“There is a significant opportunity to provide permanent and pop-up pickleball locations to service the growing and passionate demand for this sport,” Lasry said. “We are excited to join with the CityPickle team to support its expansion strategy.”

A CityPickle spokesperson declined to comment on the investment amount.

NYC’s Hottest Rec Sport

The pickleball club brand has been putting down roots in The Big Apple and was recently selected by NYC Parks to revive Anchorage Plaza, a 60,000-square-foot space under the Brooklyn Bridge. The project, slated to debut next spring, will have pickleball courts, public art, community programs and food trucks.

Last fall, CityPickle opened its first permanent pickleball club in Long Island City and has become a seasonal partner of the famed Wollman Rink in Central Park, which touts 14 permanent courts. There is also an indoor, seven-court location at Brooklyn’s Industry City that CityPickle operates, along with activations at high-profile locations at Hudson Yards and Union Square Park. In Philadelphia, CityPickle has an activation at City Hall. 

CityPickle at Wollman Rink (credit: CityPickle)

In addition to court reservations, clinics and open play, CityPickle offers private coaching and a space for private and corporate events.

“We are thrilled to have the Avenue Sports Fund join our team at CityPickle as we further our mission to spread the joy and community of pickleball in New York City and other metropolitan areas,” Cannon said.

Erica Desai (l) and Mary Cannon (credit: CityPickle)

The Great Pickleball Race

Luxury athletic country club operator Life Time has also seriously invested in pickleball, establishing over 600 permanent courts. Its founder and CEO, Bahram Akradi, once remarked that it’s the most unifying sport he’s seen in 44 years. He’s also made it clear that Life Time is intent on being the nation’s largest pickleball provider.

“It is the sport that we have to provide for our members,” Akradi said in an interview with That Pickleball Guy. This spring, Life Time opened the doors to its long-awaited pickleball space at NYC’s PENN 1, which boasts seven street-level courts.

Life Time reported a 51% growth of pickleball players on its courts in 2023 and recently partnered with Lululemon to provide athletic apparel at events, including the Life Time Pickleball Classic.

The bigger picture, however, is that pickleball has become a promising franchise model

With demand high for indoor pickleball facilities, franchises like Utah-based The Picklr are cashing in. The indoor pickleball franchise, backed by former NFL star Drew Brees (who is also an owner/area developer and brand ambassador) has partnered with Pickleball Inc., which oversees the largest pickleball brands, including Carvana Professional Pickleball Association (PPA Tour), Pickleball Central and PickleballTV.

The Picklr has 2,760 new courts in the works for the U.S. and has final master franchise agreements in the works for Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the European Union.

Pickleball Kingdom, another indoor pickleball franchise, has over 140 clubs built or being developed in the U.S. and is targeting the Ontario market as well as Dubai, India and Abu Dhabi, resulting from a recent agreement with Franchise India Group.

“Universally, the biggest complaint against pickleball is that there aren’t enough courts to meet the demand to play,” said David Haynie, chief pickleball officer at Pickleball Kingdom.

The post NYC’s CityPickle Gets Investment To Fuel Urban Pickleball Expansion appeared first on Athletech News.


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