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Who Are the Surprising New Occupants of Empty Big-Box Stores?

Margaret Lipman
Updated May 17, 2024
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Pickleball seems to be everywhere these days. All across the country, America’s fastest-growing sport is attracting players of all ages. Yet pickleball is having some growing pains – most notably noise complaints and a lack of space to play. Such is the popularity of this paddle sport that public parks, recreation areas, and tennis courts are limiting the use of their facilities by pickleball players so that others have the chance to enjoy them, too.

With nearly nine million Americans looking for somewhere to play their new favorite sport, an unlikely solution has begun to emerge. Just as pickleball is growing in popularity, an increasing number of stores in shopping malls are sitting empty and unused as more shoppers move online. From Missouri to New Jersey, empty storefronts that once housed large retailers such as Old Navy, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Burlington Coat Factory are increasingly finding new lives as homes for pickleball clubs.

Pickleball, anyone?

  • Although pickleball’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years (growing around 40% between 2019 and 2021), it was actually created in the 1960s in Washington state.

  • Its inventors, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum found themselves on a badminton court without the right equipment. Nevertheless, they got creative with table tennis paddles and a plastic ball with holes.

  • Pickeball is just as popular on college campuses as it is among older players. This social sport involves less running than tennis, has an easy-to-understand scoring system, is accepting of players of all ages, genders, sizes, and abilities, and allows many people to participate at once.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Margaret Lipman
By Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range of topics. Her articles cover essential areas such as finance, parenting, health and wellness, nutrition, educational strategies. Margaret's writing is guided by her passion for enriching the lives of her readers through practical advice and well-researched information.
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Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
With years of experience as an educator, Margaret Lipman produces thoughtful and informative content across a wide range...
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