'Inundated with interest': Utah-based pickleball company plans major expansion in suburbs

A Utah-based company is poised to enter the greater Chicago market as the latest business to capitalize on the voracious demand for indoor pickleball facilities.

The Picklr, which has seven corporate-owned facilities, is accelerating its franchising and plans 80 facilities in 11 states including Illinois as the first wave of a major expansion.

"We're just inundated with interest," said Scott Schubiger, chief growth officer. "The market is really, really excited about what we're bringing."

The company plans to repurpose vacant big-box retail spaces in Mundelein, Naperville and Villa Park with openings anticipated in December.

Nine courts are planned in Naperville with eight each in Mundelein and Villa Park as the first entries in the Midwest.

The 80 planned facilities are being pursued by 13 new franchisees in the first part of the expansion. More than 300 locations across the U.S. are envisioned, according to Schubiger.

"It's a great start out of the gate," he said. "Obviously, there's such a demand (among players) for finding indoor pickleball."

The Picklr plans to open 18 to 20 facilities in the Chicago area, according to Schubiger. Its three initial locations are among several facilities featuring indoor courts and amenities other ventures have or will be opening in the suburbs.

Among them are Sure Shot Pickleball, which debuted Sunday with 11 courts in Naperville, and Pickle Haus, a pickleball-themed restaurant set to open in November with 12 courts in Algonquin. In Vernon Hills, final approval is expected today for PickleMall Inc. to renovate the former Toys R Us at Townline Commons into a 14-court indoor pickleball facility.

Memberships, drop-in playing times, leagues, tournaments, rentals for private events, lessons and perks generally are offered. The Picklr sees demand for franchises as a showing of its brand strength.

The Picklr has been around about three years, according to Schubiger, and has a stake in Major League Pickle Ball Inc. Six corporate-owned facilities in Utah and one in Colorado have sparked interest from "well capitalized candidates" to invest elsewhere, he added.

"It's been crazy. I haven't spent one nickel in lead generation," Schubiger said. The company repurposes shuttered big box stores, such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Office Depot or Hobby Lobby, for example, Schubiger said.

Pickleball was created in 1965 but its popularity has skyrocketed the past three years.

USA Pickleball is the sport's national governing body. According to the organization, there were 10,274 registered facilities in North America at the end of 2022, up 1,557 or 130 new locations a month compared to 2021.

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Utah-based The Picklr is planning to open 80 new facilities in 11 states. Sites include Mundelein, Naperville and Villa Park in Illinois. Courtesy of The Picklr
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