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Pleasant Pastimes: Pickleball Potential Proves Potent

Shira Petrack
October 18, 2023
Pleasant Pastimes: Pickleball Potential Proves Potent

The past few years haven’t been easy, with a global pandemic and rising costs commanding headlines seemingly non-stop. But the stress of the pandemic may have also helped boost some entertainment segments as consumers seek outlets and ways to reconnect with friends after lockdowns. And concepts that were already growing pre-pandemic – such as “eatertainment” – are doing particularly well.

Today, we dive into pickleball –  a sport created in 1965 that combines elements of tennis, ping pong, and badminton – which has been on the rise since well before COVID. Where is the nation’s fastest-growing sport for the fifth consecutive year heading? We dove into the data to find out. 

Chicken N Pickle: Growing Visits Since 2019

Chicken N Pickle – a chain of indoor/outdoor entertainment complexes that offer dining options, pickleball courts, and spaces for live entertainment and private events – was established in December 2015, just as the pickleball craze began to pick up steam. The company has grown quickly in recent years, thanks in large part to the chain’s steady expansion which is slated to continue

Attracting A Wider Customer Base

But the chain’s success is not just due to its rapid expansion – the brand appears to be also widening its visitor base. Pickleball is known for its particularly affluent fans, with exclusive country clubs across the country adding pickleball courts to meet the growing demand. But looking at changes in the psychographic profile of visitors to the first ever Chicken N Pickle location in North Kansas, MO, suggests that the sport is now becoming popular among a wider range of audiences.  

The trade area of the North Kansas Chicken N Pickle site does include a significant share of high-income segments, such as “Upper Suburban Diverse Families” and “Ultra Wealthy Families” – identified by the PersonaLive dataset – as befits the sports reputation. But the share of these segments in the venue’s trade area shrunk between H1 2019 and H1 2023, while the percentage of middle- and lower-income segments – including “Blue Collar Suburbs” and “Urban Low Income” – have grown.

And as the visitor base diversified, overall foot traffic to the North Kansas location also increased, with visits to the venue 13.0% higher in H1 2023 than in pre-pandemic H1 2019 – indicating that pickleball’s wider appeal could be helping drive some of the visit growth.  

Is Pickleball Becoming a More Accessible Pastime? 

Analyzing changes in the trade area of the first Chicken N Pickle site using the STI: Popstats 2022 dataset also suggests that pickleball is democratizing. The venue’s captured market median household income (HHI) in H1 2023 was $76.8K/year – higher than the average HHI in Missouri ($61.5K according to STI: Popstats 2022), but lower than the $81.9K/year it had been in 2019. The first ever Chicken N Pickle location’s trade area median HHI moving closer towards the median HHI state-wide offers another indication that pickleball is gaining traction among non-elites.

And in the past four years, the share of weekend visits increased – from 39.4% to 42.2% – which also suggests that pickleball is attracting more casual amateurs playing on the weekend and fewer die-hard fanatics carving out time for the sport during the busy work week.

Pickleball For All

Pickleball has been growing in popularity for a while, and looking at shifts in visitor profile and behavior at the first ever Chicken N Pickle location suggests that the sport is now attracting a wider array of players than it was pre-pandemic. With a low barrier to entry – both financially and in terms of skill needed to play – and more courts opening seemingly daily, it looks like the pickleball craze is here to stay. 

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