Pickleball has been taking health and wellness industries by storm, and one community rec center taking advantage of this trend is the West YMCA, a branch of the Greater Wichita YMCA. The Y recently opened the Pickle Center in October which features four indoor pickleball courts. The space was converted from a basketball court and has new equipment and seating areas.
According to the 2023 Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s Topline Participation Report, pickleball participation has grown 158.6% over the past three years and shows no signs of slowing down. Investing in pickleball was a smart decision for the Y because of how it brings together the community and the multiple health benefits participants experience.
“Pickleball is so active, but it’s relatively accessible,” said Ronn McMahon, the CEO and President of the Greater Wichita YMCA. “It’s easy to get started and you have fun right away. The benefit is the community you develop.”
New Pickleball Opportunities
Pickleball had been offered by the Y before Pickle Center, but members appreciate having a designated space for the sport. It also opens more pickleball opportunities including leagues, which the Y started in January, and monthly classes. Both have already reached capacity.
“We’ve really seen growth,” said Ashley Sorensen, the branch director of the West YMCA. “Member response has been extremely favorable, not just from a numbers’ side, but also for connections. You walk into the Pickle Center, and there’s a feeling of community and belonging.”
If you are considering investing in pickleball, Sorensen recommended researching to figure out what members are looking for. A big draw to the Pickle Center is the indoor courts which are less common than outdoor courts locally. Figuring out the most popular times courts are used and expanding the opportunities to play during those times is another way to ensure success.
“It’s not just having the courts,” said Sorensen. “It’s important to create parity as much as you can. We have beginner, intermediate, advanced and super advanced levels of play. We want to create times where those of similar skill levels can come together. Listen to your members, adapt and change based upon their needs.”
The creation of this facility has also given members more ways to be involved. Volunteers can help players, keep score and more. This is another way community and relationships can be built through pickleball.
A Great Investment
Because the sport continues to grow in popularity, consider investing in it if you haven’t already. It can be a great new revenue source and participants will feel multiple health benefits from playing.
“We really are trying to bring people together through positive activities where they can have fun,” said McMahon. “Pickleball checks all those boxes perfectly. It’s a really smart investment right now.”
Watching members’ positive reactions to more pickleball opportunities has also justified the development of the Pickle Center for Sorensen.
“Pickleball is a sport that brings people together,” said Sorensen. “Achievement, relationships and belonging is what it’s about as well. It’s been fun to see people become more and more involved, meet new friends and care about each other.”
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