BENTONVILLE -- Picklemall, a startup firm, plans to open indoor pickleball courts in Bentonville, according to a news release.
Picklemall will debut its first U.S. location in Tempe, Ariz., in July. Picklemall plans to open 50 locations across the country in 24 months, according to the release.
Other cities include Minneapolis; Chicago; Milwaukee; Austin, Texas; Dallas; San Antonio; Oklahoma City; Tulsa, and Madison, Wis., according to the release.
The location in Bentonville wasn't named in the release.
The venture is led by CEO West Shaw and backed by Steve Kuhn, a pickleball enthusiast, billionaire financier and founder of Major League Pickleball, according to the release.
Pickleball is a sport combining elements of tennis, badminton and ping-pong. It's played indoors or outdoors on a badminton-sized court and a slightly modified tennis net. It can be played as doubles or singles, according to USA Pickleball, the national governing body for the sport.
Picklemall will launch an app to make scheduling a pickleball game, recording performance and enhancing skills as easy as possible, according to the release.
Players will use the app to reserve their court, set a play time and unlock the door. Inside the court, game play will be recorded by a camera, allowing players to watch, analyze and learn from their game footage in real time, according to the release.
Picklemall will focus on the use of existing indoor mall and strip mall properties, according to the release.
David Wright, city Parks and Recreation director, said he has heard of the private venture.
"There is a huge need right now because there are a lot of people playing," he said. "Anyone can play. It's not about speed or body size."
Pickleball was invented in 1965. USA Pickleball membership numbers reached the 70,000 mark in February, after a nearly 30% increase in membership growth in 2022, according to the group.
The Sports & Fitness Industry Association named pickleball the fastest-growing sport in America for the third year in a row in its 2023 Topline Participation Report. Pickleball is now up to a total of 8.9 million players in the United States older than 6, an increase from 4.8 million in 2022, the report says.
A group called Pickleball America is taking over an 80,000-square-foot anchor space in Stamford, Conn., in a former two-story Saks Off 5th retail store this summer. It's set to become one of the largest indoor pickleball venues in the United States, according to a CNN story last month.
A pickleball facility recently opened in a former Burlington store space at a New Jersey mall, and a pickleball club took over an Old Navy space at a New Hampshire mall, according to CNN.
"Every year, the demographics for the sport get younger and younger," Kuhn said in the release. "Pickleball has the opportunity to cross the barriers that divide us -- age, race, class -- to foster togetherness and spread joy to the communities in which Picklemall will reside."
Creekside Park, a 25-acre site at 3800 SW Bright Road that opened in May, holds Bentonville's first outdoor, lighted, eight-court pickleball complex. The park is adjacent to Osage Creek Elementary and Creekside Middle schools.
There has been an increase in demand for access to the sport, driving the need for courts, Wright said.
"They are busy, but a lot of that is because they are brand-new," Wright said. "There is no question in my mind if we put eight pickleball courts on the other side of town, they would be busy, too."
The city also sets up nets three to four days a week to play pickleball indoors at the Community Center, and four of the eight outdoor tennis courts at Citizens Park are marked for pickleball, Wright said.
Osage Park near Lake Bentonville has eight pickleball courts. The park is a community space provided by the Peel Compton Foundation.