We’re constantly reminded of pickleball’s astronomic growth. Still, according to a recent report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) and Pickleheads, it might be even more significant than we think.
The 2023 State of Pickleball: Participation & Infrastructure Report was a collaborative study conducted by SFIA and Pickleheads to dig deeper into various statistics regarding America’s fastest-growing sport. SFIA’s participation data, gathered during the 2022 calendar year by Sports Marketing Surveys USA (SMS), correlates directly with Pickleheads’ proprietary database of pickleball courts nationwide to create a report that paints a better picture of the player population’s needs.
Increase In Player Participation
Let’s start by taking a look at the participation data. We all commonly use or hear the saying that pickleball is “the fastest-growing sport in America,” but what does that really mean?
In 2022, 8.9 million people played pickleball at some point during the course of that year, marking an 85.7% year-over-year increase and a whopping 263.5% increase since 2014. The report points out that while pickleball has steadily grown since 2014, it hit a spike in popularity when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020. This is due to the sport being one of the few socially-distanced activities people could socialize through during that time.
Max Ade, Co-Founder of Pickleheads, has recognized the growing need for courts through his work on the Pickleheads court database. He believes that the report will greatly benefit the community’s efforts in stabilizing the sport’s infrastructure, which will help keep pickleball accessible to all.
“The meteoric rise in pickleball participation has created a nationwide court shortage. Our report attempts to quantify the additional infrastructure necessary to support America’s fastest growing sport.”Max Ade, Co-Founder of Pickleheads
For example, looking at the above participation graph, the increase in popularity between 2021 and 2022 was clearly drastic. In 2022, the number of new pickleball players actually exceeded the total number of players in 2021, demonstrating just how many more people have become aware of the sport recently.
The Need For More Courts
With this tremendous increase in player population, we’ve seen the direct impact that growth has had on the need for court space. Open play lines are down the street, public parks have banned pickleball from their sporting areas, and tennis players continue to fight off pickleball players looking for a place to play.
Pickleheads is the leading online platform for pickleball fans looking to connect with their local communities. Through their services, players can find playgroups in order to organize games as well as search for nearby courts.
Their team has built the most comprehensive database of pickleball courts nationwide. As of June 2023, there are currently 51,937 pickleball courts across 12,081 facilities in the United States, with only 29% of those facilities being permanent/dedicated for pickleball.
By comparing the player populations to the number of courts, based on geographical location, the SFIA has been able to determine that a healthy player-to-court ratio is 500 active players per court, with an average court construction cost of $35,000 in the generally accepted range of $20,000 to $50,000 for one new outdoor pickleball court.
According to the Co-Founder & COO of Pickleheads, Brandon Mackie, many of the nation’s largest cities have a long way to go when it comes to meeting the needs of their pickleball-playing constituents. Cities like Los Angeles and New York are considered to be 98% below the national average in dedicated pickleball courts per 10,000 residents.
“Getting court availability on par with the top 25% of cities we track will require constructing over 25,000 courts at an estimated cost of $902 million over the coming years. This presents an exciting opportunity for industry investors and entrepreneurs. But it’s also exciting for players and the brands that serve them.”Brandon Mackie, Co-Founder and COO of Pickleheads
Building a Brighter Future For Pickleball
The report goes on to break down the different types of courts we see nationwide, including everything from dedicated outdoor courts to temporary indoor courts, and takes a look at the most and least supported cities and states in the U.S. in terms of court space. For example, while California has the most pickleball facilities nationwide, Los Angeles desperately needs more courts, ranked as the 2nd worst city in the nation.
Ultimately, this report suggests that while pickleball has grown astronomically in the last couple of years, it’s only just beginning. If you’re considering getting into the pickleball industry, whether starting your own paddle company or building your own courts, the time to jump in is RIGHT NOW!
This week, we will continue to analyze the report in order to consider the implications of what’s to come within the world of pickleball, so be sure to follow along here at Pickleball Union to see more! To view the full report yourself, you can purchase it on Picklehead’s website here.
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