Dave Ganim, owner of Pickle Shack in Delaware County, says there are two types of people: those who love pickleball and those who have never played it.
A mix of tennis, ping pong and badminton, pickleball originated in the 1960s but has exploded in popularity in recent years, becoming the fastest growing sport in the country. Ganim first picked up a pickleball paddle a few years ago after playing racquetball for most of his life. He took to it right away and eventually set up four pickleball courts at his home, where he hosts some of the area’s top pickleballers on Monday nights.
Aside from the goofy name, Ganim says pickleball offers some advantages over other racquet sports. “With tennis, you have to reach a certain level before you enjoy the sport,” says Ganim. Racquetball is also easy to learn, but the sport is often confined to sports clubs, creating cost and accessibility barriers.
Pickleball, on the other hand, only requires a racket that looks like an oversized, rectangular ping pong racket; a Wiffle-shaped perforated ball; a net with poles; and a hard surface the size of a badminton court (20 feet by 44 feet), which can be adapted to tennis and basketball courts or even a driveway. “You can go to Amazon, buy a few paddles and a net, and you’re up and running,” says Ganim.
Compared to tennis, pickleball does not require players to cover as much ground, especially in doubles matches, which is part of why the game first gained popularity among older adults. But while running is kept to a minimum, competitive pickleball encourages all kinds of lunges and twists. “It’s a workout – for your legs, for everything,” Ganim says. “That’s a lot of short bursts.”
After selling his medical equipment business earlier this year, Ganim decided to get into the pickleball business. In mid-June, he hosted more than 400 people at the grand opening of Pickle Shack at 3218 U.S. Route 42, southwest of downtown Delaware. Ganim already plans to expand the facility’s six indoor courts to 10 and add a bar and several outdoor courts. He also wants to build a Pickle Shack in Sunbury.
Over time, Ganim hopes to have 15 locations, including one near his other home in Scottsdale, Arizona. “We want a Pickle Shack within 15 minutes of everyone’s home in Columbus,” says Ganim, believing that four local sites should be enough.
Pickle Shack isn’t the only game in town. Central Ohio communities including Bexley, Dublin, Westerville and Worthington have added dedicated outdoor pickleball courts. In July, Columbus Mayor Andy Ginther announced plans for a three-season pickleball facility at Mock Park on the Northeast Side and new outdoor courts at four other city parks.
Other pickleball companies are also on the way. On October 14, David Kass, president of Continental Real Estate, and his wife, Cari, will open Pickle & Chill at 880 W. Henderson Road. Housed on the same site as another Kass business, Tennis Ohio, the new facility will begin with six indoor courts surrounded by murals and graffiti on 40-foot-tall walls. Next year, the second phase of Pickle & Chill will add bar, lounge and dining options, as well as five outdoor courts.
Kass, a former professional tennis player, also owns a Major League Pickleball team, The Bus, which will compete in a tournament with other MLP teams from around the country on Pickle & Chill’s opening weekend. He cites the pandemic as one of the factors behind pickleball’s explosive growth.
“People were looking for something to do. … We taped our driveway and had a pickleball half court,” Kass says. “I think the parity between people is much less than in other sports. You can find a competitive game with a large group of people. I can play with my family, but I also play with professional hockey players.
Pickle & Chill and the Pickle Shack will have more competition next year when the Chicago-based Real Dill Pickleball Club opens its first location in Ohio near Topgolf and Ikea in Polaris. “There’s a lot of demand for everyone,” Kass says, adding that pickleball seems to foster a sense of community wherever there are courts. “It’s social and fun, and you can have a few beers if you want, but you can also call it exercise.”
This story is from the October 2022 issue of Monthly Columbus.