Pickle & Chill, a pickleball-specific playing hub in Central Ohio, is growing right alongside the exploding popularity of the sport.
The facility hosted a grand-opening celebration for 10 new outdoor pickleball courts, 880 W. Henderson Road, June 24.
The outdoor courts have been under construction since late March. It required the demolition of a building located directly behind Pickle & Chill’s indoor facility, said Ruth Milligan, strategy partner for Pickle & Chill and a Clintonville resident.
With the addition of 10 outdoor courts, Pickle & Chill became the largest pickleball-specific facility above the Mason-Dixon line, she said.
“Dedicated pickleball players at Pickle & Chill will now be able to choose if they want to play indoors or outdoors in the good weather months,” Milligan said.
“So, it’s really important to us that they have options and more space than ever to play.”
Pickle & Chill member Ly Foor said the grand opening of the outdoor courts was a golden opportunity to shed light on pickleball to Columbus residents.
“I think the outdoor courts are pretty exciting because it just gives us a different environment to play in,” Foor said. “Expanding the facility will only help continue to grow the pickleball community.”
Milligan said Pickle & Chill is currently hosting a seven-week summer camp for children and teenagers to learn and play.
“Pickleball is a sport whose audience is getting younger and it’s unlike other sports in that aspect,” Milligan said.
Pickle & Chill also hosts daily open-play sessions, as well as weekly leagues, where members can play in groups of their skill level.
“The No. 1 thing pickleball players want is to be matched with someone in their playing field,” Milligan said.
Foor said accessibility was a major component which led her to start playing pickleball.
“It’s accessible to any age, as long as you have a net and paddles to play with,” Foor said. “I was able to learn how to play at age 60,” and her great nephew learned at age 12.
Part of what makes pickleball so easy to pick up for beginners is many already have played a racket sport in their life, whether that’s ping-pong or tennis, said Jay Schmidt, Pickle & Chill member.
“I took a group of eight folks who have never played before out to Pickle & Chill, and I had them up there for an hour,” said Schmidt.
“By the end of the hour, they were all playing the game and knew what they were doing for the most part.”
Pickle & Chill also has a liquor license, for older participants looking to enjoy an alcoholic beverage after they play, Milligan said.
Schmidt said pickleball is so unique because it can be played in so many ways and at so many different skill levels. Whether it is played competitively or recreationally, singles or doubles, it appeals to a wide range of players.
“I see people gravitating to pickleball because of its social nature,” Schmidt said. “You have the competitive side of pickleball, but also the social aspect of the sport. You can play a game and have a beer or a drink after and there’s a lot of camaraderie that’s built into the game of pickleball.”
Pickleball is receiving more attention than ever at the national level as well, with new leagues, television deals and celebrity endorsements helping to popularize the sport.
Milligan said the national spotlight and support from professional athletes is very beneficial for pickleball, but it is also important to continue to grow the sport from a local level.
Pickle & Chill, “is committed to growing the sport and has taught over 1,300 people how to play already,” Milligan said.