A vacant retail space in a Colorado Springs shopping center will be transformed into one of the city's largest indoor pickleball complexes, which will accommodate growing numbers of local players and provide them with a social gathering spot.
California-based Courtside Superstores plans to open 10 pickleball courts, along with a store, bar, cafE and seating areas, in the former 30,000-square-foot Stein Mart at University Village Colorado, northwest of Nevada Avenue and Garden of the Gods Road. Stein Mart, a discount department store, closed in 2020.
Courtside Superstores, which opened its first complex in June in Irvine, Calif., plans more than 50 similar facilities around the country by the end of 2023.
Pickleball's popularity has exploded globally, and Colorado Springs' strong contingent of players makes it an attractive market for an indoor facility, said Brett Thomas, a professional pickleball player and managing member of a California company that's developing the Courtside Superstores complexes.
"It's the greatest sport from 8 to 80," Thomas said. "It blends everybody socially together and the passion, that you can pick up a paddle for the first time and be playing at some level in the next 10 to 20 minutes."
Pickleball, invented in 1965, combines elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong, according to the USA Pickleball Association, based in suburban Phoenix.
Players use a paddle and plastic ball with holes and compete indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court, with a slightly modified tennis net, the association's website says.
The game's simple rules allow it to be played by all ages, and it offers a chance for competition, exercise and friends to get together, according to the association.
"It's just a great experience, a great social aspect, a great family aspect," Thomas said. "It's lighter on your body, but a nice high cardio. Great hand-eye coordination. It started out as a sport for the higher-age generation and now it's worked its way down and you can never take anybody for granted, what age they are to play."
Colorado Springs has a dozen outdoor locations for pickleball, including free, state-of-the art public courts at Monument Valley Park and Bear Creek Regional Park, according to the Pikes Peak Pickleball Association.
Indoor pickleball locations include three, members-only facilities operated by the YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region.
The Courtside Superstores indoor facility at University Village Colorado will allow year-round play and avoid problems created by wind or bad weather, Thomas said.
"Many months out of the year, you can't play outside," he said. "I've been there quite a bit, from spring, summer, winter, fall. Even during the spring and summer months it gets windy. And playing with a pickleball, which is more like a whiffle ball, that ball moves around. So we're just providing a nice comfortable setting."
Players also will be able to buy food and beverages, watch the venue's 24 TVs and enjoy seating near the courts while friends play, he said.
"The atmosphere we're providing is more of a relaxed setting with courts, and a bar-restaurant, bar-cafe concept," Thomas said.
The retail store, meanwhile, will sell pickleball equipment and clothing that players can try out on site, instead of buying something online that they find out later didn't work for them, he said.
Thomas is targeting a February opening for the Colorado Springs facility at University Village Colorado. Fees are expected to be $8 per person for daylong, open play on weekdays and $10 on weekends, he said.
The pickleball complex would add a people-generating, entertainment concept to University Village Colorado at a time when some retailers have struggled or downsized, said Jared May, a commercial broker with the Springs office of national real estate firm CBRE. He represented Courtside Superstores in its lease of the former Stein Mart space.
"There's not as many concepts nowadays for traditional brick-and-mortar retailers to take 30,000 square feet," May said. "A lot of landlords are looking at these entertainment-type concepts, to really get a different mix of people who are coming and then also at different times of the day."
John Winsor, a broker with Olive Real Estate Group in the Springs who markets University Village Colorado for local developer Kratt Commercial Properties, said Courtside Superstores will bring an "entertainment and social piece" to the shopping center that it lacks.
"Pickleball has become extremely popular across the country," Winsor said. "They're going to do a nice job of not only bringing the pickleball and the activity, but really combining that social aspect with the restaurant-bar component. People that go there will have the ability to watch and enjoy the food and beverages, as well as play."
The complex also will feed off customers who are shopping and dining at University Village Colorado, while some pickleball players will browse stores, catch lunch or make a reservation for a more formal dinner after they play, Winsor said.
Joe Johnson, president of the Pikes Peak Pickleball Association, said he supports another pickleball facility, especially an indoor venue.
The sport has enjoyed phenomenal growth because it appeals to all ages and can be picked up quickly, he said. On a recent Sunday when the weather was nice, Johnson said he checked some public pickleball courts and found them packed.
"It's definitely needed, especially for the winter time because we have very little indoor options for players here in the Springs," Johnson said.
"Pickleball is an extremely social sport, but people do that for free in the parks as well," he added. "They meet their friends, they bring groups down and then usually afterward, they'll go somewhere for lunch or whatever and go out and have drinks or whatever. I think they'll be very successful ... if they're offering a decent price. People will go play."