Pickleball replaces Bed Bath Beyond and Old Navy in

Pickleball replaces Bed Bath & Beyond and Old Navy in malls – CNN

New York (CNN) Pickleball is coming to your local mall, replacing closed Bed Bath & Beyond, Old Navy and Saks Off 5th stores.

It might seem like a strange strategy, but the game offers advantages to both mall owners and pickleball players.

Shopping malls need new tenants to fill vacancies and attract customers beyond their traditional anchor department stores and clothing stores.

Consumers, craving fun and social experiences after years of limited gatherings during the pandemic, have shifted spending from goods to experiences like theaters, arcades and amusement parks.

Malls are responding to these trends by targeting a broader range of tenants and activity to attract traffic, real estate investment firm JLL said in a report this week.

The new mix in malls also includes skydiving, virtual golfing and breweries.

Pickleball is now America’s fastest growing sport. Game supporters and developers are desperately looking for free spaces to build playing fields.

Pickleball, which combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis, started in 1965. But during the pandemic, it’s seen a rapid resurgence.

According to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, a trade group, the number of people playing pickleball increased 159% in three years to 8.9 million in 2022.

Courts have been opened in leisure centers, hotels and retirement homes.

However, pickleball’s rapid spread has created dilemmas for public parks and recreation authorities, who must balance competing interests with often limited space and funds. Senior communities and country clubs also face challenges in creating space for people to enjoy the game without upsetting others.

Some tennis players and neighbors are bothered by the pop-pop-pop noise at pickleball and have blocked development on courts.

So Pickleball goes to malls, where players can play and then eat or shop, landlords hope.

A group called Pickleball America is taking over an 80,000-square-foot anchor space in Stamford, Connecticut, in a former two-story Saks Off 5th retail store this summer. It is on track to become one of the largest indoor pickleball venues in the United States.

The Meadows at Lake Saint Louis, an outdoor shopping mall, plans to fill the space once occupied by Bed Bath & Beyond with a pickleball club.

Recently, a pickleball facility opened in a former Burlington storefront at the Shore Mall in New Jersey, and a pickleball club took over an Old Navy section of a New Hampshire mall.

And the first Camp Pickle, a new chain that combines pickleball with food and drink in a 1940s camp culture setting, is slated to open next year in Huntsville, Alabama. It will also expand to Atlanta, Dallas and Minneapolis.