Ryan Roach, owner of The Rowdy Pickle, took one look at Jacksonville, Florida’s, crowded courts and extended wait times for players and realized a business opportunity was to be had.
Surge In Popularity
The surge in popularity of pickleball, especially during the pandemic, meant the area was in dire need of more indoor courts, and Roach has stepped in to solve that problem.
His Rowdy Pickle facility is one of the most recent additions to Jacksonville’s sports landscape. It provides a vibrant and inclusive environment for players of all skill levels to come together and enjoy the game, catering to both seasoned players and beginners alike.
“In the middle of the summer, it feels like it’s 120 degrees, and it rains every afternoon,” Roach said.
“And at the Beaches, we have a lot of wind, so it [Rowdy Pickle] is just more of a climate-control type of place where people could rent it out and have their own space to get away from the crowd.”
“Old Ladies” And Ass Whoopings
Roach’s decision to venture into pickleball came about a few years ago. He took to the courts in the Jacksonville area, purchasing a paddle without hesitation.
Playing solo at first, he gained valuable experience, even competing with experienced players. Despite initial challenges, Roach’s enthusiasm for the sport grew as he observed its rising popularity in Jacksonville.
Roach decided to give pickleball a go after hearing about it a couple of years ago. Armed with a $20 paddle he’d found on Amazon, he went along to a court in Jacksonville and promptly got his “ass whooped” by some “old ladies” who were playing that day.
As he colorfully explains to folioweekly.com, “Courts [were] getting really packed and having to wait an hour and a half between each game, just to have these old ladies kick my ass” Roach explained. “I mean they really just dominated me.”
However, the more he played, the more he noticed how the sport was beginning to gather momentum around Jacksonville.
He also noticed how the escalating demand and long wait times for the outdoor courts. Roach also noted that some of his pickleballing friends were being forced to drive 45 minutes to find a vacant court. All this prompted Roach to consider a solution.
Recognizing the need for more courts and a sheltered playing environment due to Florida‘s unpredictable weather, especially in summer, he started work on construction of The Rowdy Pickle in Atlantic Beach.
As a first-time business owner with limited resources, Roach went for the DIY approach, investing significant time and effort into the project alongside his full-time job.
A Pain In The Ass
Roach takes up the story, “I was getting quotes with prices, trying to find contractors and paint, ’cause I was gonna do it myself. It was the most hectic thing ever. And I’ll never paint again. The stuff that I was using just kept breaking. It was just a pain in the ass.”
Despite initial difficulties, Roach enlisted the help of talented artists Jonny Middlebrook and Martin Torres to work on the interior. They exceeded all expectations with their amazing floor-to-ceiling murals inside of the building.
The grand opening in March exceeded Roach’s expectations, and the club has attracted 61 memberships within two months.
Diverse Membership Options
As Jacksonville’s sole private climate-controlled court, The Rowdy Pickle offers diverse membership options to cater to different preferences. While drop-ins are available, membership is recommended due to the high demand.
Looking ahead, Roach envisions expanding his venture. Although The Rowdy Pickle’s location limits further growth, Roach is exploring the possibility of opening additional indoor pickleball courts in other cities.
“I want to open up a new facility and hopefully have many more courts,” Roach explained. “It would be a different business model. I would offer a lot more open play and less membership restrictions. Then hopefully turn this into more of an exclusive club where there are really high-end games.”
A Broader Range Of Games
His vision also includes a broader range of games, incorporating golf simulators and cornhole and creating a mix of indoor and outdoor activities to maximize the al-fresco Florida lifestyle. He’s also looking into pro-player sponsorship and has founded their own “Rowdy Pickle League”.
He says, “With Rowdy, I want people to have a good time. I want people to be able to bring their own coolers, drink, and get rowdy without having to sit in 120-degree weather.”
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