I picked up my first pickleball paddle around 2016 when my oldest daughter’s best friend’s parents introduced me to the sport.
They have a tennis court in their backyard and painted pickleball lines on it. Prior to that, I had never heard of pickleball or the terms that have come to define the sport: the kitchen, dinking, the two-bounce rule, and the all-important third shot.
My first paddle was a wooden one. It was heavy and clumsy compared with today’s lightweight, charged carbon-fiber paddles.
My wife recently sold our wooden paddles on Facebook Marketplace to a sports historian. Yes, 7-year-old-wooden paddles have become prized possessions for collectors.
I don’t remember how much they cost back then. But my guess was a set of four wooden paddles ran you about $20.
Fast-forward to 2023…
I recently purchased the Joola Perseus paddle. The cost? $250. I’ve added lead tape to the paddle to give it more power and spin. The results are stunning.
But there’s more to this story.
Wealth Daily’s resident natural resources expert Luke Burgess has personal experience with the booming pickleball industry: His father builds pickleball courts all up and down the East Coast of the U.S. He used to build tennis courts.
But so many governments, schools, and super-rich dudes want pickleball courts that he barely has time to build them all.
And here’s where there’s an opportunity in the pickleball space.
I’ve racked my brain for a good year trying to find a way to get investment exposure to pickleball. Whether it was through a hedge fund, a venture startup, or starting a pickleball newsletter, I’ve hit a wall every time.
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As usual, the investment opportunity is simple: real estate.
You can fit roughly two–three pickleball courts inside one tennis court. So the economies of scale are in pickleball’s favor.
There was a recent report released by the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) about the current state of pickleball. And it found a huge imbalance between supply and demand.
According to SFIA, the pickleball market needs 25,784 courts to keep up with current and future demand.
But that’s nothing — just wait until you learn about how much that will cost…
About $900 million is needed to build all of those courts.
Those 25,784 courts add up to 23 million square feet — that's 23 times the size of this giant warehouse:
However, there might already be space for all of these pickleball courts — in dying shopping malls.
I live in a rural part of Maryland about an hour north of Baltimore City. Our local shopping mall is dead. The mall has 3 anchors: 1) Dick’s Sportinfg Goods 2) Sal’s Pizzeria and 3) Regal Cinemas.
There are probably 25-35 retail spaces inside the mall. Half are empty, with the rest open on “special hours” of operation.
However, about two years ago, the “fun zone” in the mall for children put in three pickleball courts. The courts are always full. Just tape out the dimensions of the court, throw in a portable pickleball net, and voila, you have yourself a pickleball court on the cheap.
And that brings me to an investment idea: Vornado Realty Corp. (NYSE: VNO)
Vornado is a REIT. It trades for about $21 a share.
Vornado’s stock — like that of many other REITs — has exploded to the upside this summer:
Full disclaimer: I own 500 shares of Vornado Realty.
Earlier this summer, the New York Post ran a story on Vornado.
Here’s a piece of it:
Vornado’s ongoing $2 billion office upgrades in the Penn Station area has included new office building facades, public space, and tenants’ amenities of many kinds, but not today’s “It” attraction — until now.
Pickleball courts, of course.
The developer signed premier healthy-lifestyle brand Life Time for a more than 53,000-square-foot complex on the first three floors of PENN 1.
It will boast seven (count 'em, seven) ground-level pickleball courts to serve devotees of the city’s fastest growing leisure sport.
Life Time EVP Parham Javaheri boasted that it will be "the city’s most premier indoor pickleball club featuring lounge seating and a bar, complemented by our luxury athletic club programs and amenities."
I can promise you that seven courts will not be enough. I just spent nearly two months in Florida going to a sports complex with overf 24 pickleball courts. On most days, 24 courts weren't enough.
As far as I can tell, this is the only way to play pickleball in the public markets.
We will continue to get to the good grass first,