The sport, which has been growing in popularity among both Baby Boomers and younger players, is the star of a new sports and entertainment complex planned for Southeast Austin.
The Austin Pickle Ranch will be built at 9110 Bluff Springs Road, north of Slaughter Lane in Travis County. While pickleball will take center court, the project will also feature a range of other activities, said Tim Klitch, former Austin market president for Comerica Bank and co-founder of the Austin Pickle Ranch.
Klitch and co-founder Daniel Keelan, an Austin tech industry veteran, purchased the 13-acre property in June and expect to open the Pickle Ranch in mid 2021.
• 32 pickleball courts, making it the largest pickleball facility in Texas
• Four sand volleyball courts
• An outdoor mobile stage for live concerts and corporate events
• Outdoor Pilates, yoga, boot camp and spin classes taught by partner Todd Pilates
• A one-acre outdoor dog park
• Table tennis, cornhole, bocce and other yard games
Pickleball was created in 1965 in the Seattle area and is the fastest-growing participation sport in the U.S., according to the Sports Fitness Industry Association. Pickleball is a combination of badminton, tennis and ping pong and is played on a court that is about a quarter of the size of a tennis court.
Klitch, a former college tennis player who briefly played professionally, discovered pickleball after a dirt bike accident in 2019 required him to have two surgeries and wear a sling on his left arm.
“All I could do was play pickleball, and it kept me from going crazy,” Klitch said.
“The game is way easier on your body, it’s way more social, it’s way more fun,” he said. “What really got me thinking about the Pickle Ranch was watching 20-somethings with no background in tennis or pickleball come out and play and seeing the smiles on their faces. I had never seen a sport where people could just pick it up on the spot and have fun.”
The Austin Pickle Ranch will be open to the public and will also serve as a regional and national training facility for AAU Pickleball, which promotes sports programs for all participants of all ages.
“We believe that pickleball can be a life changing game for low to moderate income youth, and are pleased with the commitment of court time, programming and equipment that the Ranch is making to youth in Austin and throughout the Texas region,” Mike Nelson, AAU Pickleball executive director, said in a statement.
Justin Maloof, executive director of USA Pickleball, a sanctioning body for the sport, said “Our sport is becoming so popular that in many places like Austin court availability is one of our biggest challenges. We are excited to see the Austin Pickle Ranch be built to serve the needs of the daily casual player as well as a state-of-the-art league and tournament venue.”