Pickleball at the mall: Former big-box store in Tempe to turn into 'Picklemall'

Posted at 9:04 AM, May 23, 2023

TEMPE, AZ — Amid an explosion of interest in pickleball in the Valley, a newly formed Texas company is putting its first location in the Phoenix metro.

Picklemall will debut its first U.S. location in July, at 5000 S. Arizona Mills Circle, Suite 313 in the Arizona Mills shopping mall in Tempe. Picklemall will occupy a 104,000-square-foot space previously occupied by At Home Stores, which closed in 2019.

"Pickleball in Arizona is exploding and I want to be at the forefront of that," Picklemall CEO West Shaw told the Business Journal. "[Arizona] has a lot of different elements that drive people indoors and that's why we wanted to go there."

With the new concept, formerly what would have been aisles and aisles of home decor will be replaced with 24 pickleball courts.

"Right now if you go to a public court during prime hours you'll probably have to wait to play," Shaw said. "And that's what we're trying to combat is that waiting time and having to play at noon in Tempe, Arizona, in the middle of July. That could potentially be dangerous."

Read more from the Business Journal.

During the last three years, pickleball has become America's fastest-growing sport.

Fred Bender says he now likes it more than tennis, which he used to play in college.

"I don't know why people play tennis because when they go out, all they do is chase the ball when you first start playing,” said Bender. “With pickleball, if you've ever played ping-pong, you can play pickleball within an hour or so."

ABC15 caught up with Bender, his son, and some friends at Pecos Park in Phoenix on Tuesday.

"It started with us old folks. The young ones then asked, what do old folks have that we young folks don't have and now they're playing,” said Bender.

Bender’s son, Bret, says he hits a pickleball court every chance he gets.

"I think it is such a fun sport, especially, if you are trying to incorporate all sorts of skill levels. It is the best,” said Bret.

The popular sport will be available to play in a whole new way at the coming Arizona Mills location.

Alexa Erjavic says she'll be interested in escaping the heat and visiting the 104,000-square-foot facility which opens in July.

"It will enable us to play six more months out of the year when it would normally be too hot. It is 109 degrees out here now and here we are,” said Erjavic.

Between August 2022 and March 2023, the American Pickleball Association says, the amount of people playing this sport has grown by 35%.

Bret told ABC15 he isn't surprised to know the sport is growing rapidly in the Valley.

"It's just really accessible. Super-accessible. I think all of those other sports we are used to are just so time-consuming to get the learning curve to get better to even enjoy a game,” added Bret.

Picklemall plans to open other facilities inside malls across the country in the months to come.