According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, a new indoor pickleball facility is being built at the former Stein Mart retail outlet in University Village, Colorado Springs. Rumors about the facility have been swirling around town for months. The facility will be run by the California-based firm Courtside Superstores and will include ten courts.
So: Will the new University Village facility suffer the same fate as North Side Social?
The Gazette reporter didn’t mention it, but a similar facility–North Side Social–opened in January 2021 only to permanently close about six months later due to a dramatic decline in demand during the summer. North Side Social’s unfortunate experience suggests that demand for indoor courts is strong in the winter and early spring, but Colorado Springs has many public outdoor courts and few people are willing to pay to play when the weather is good (which it quite often is, as the old saying about “Colorado’s 300 days of sunshine a year” has made famous.)
There are reasons to be optimistic:
Better management. The owner of North Side Social, a successful restaurant entrepreneur, had never ventured into the pickleball space before. By contrast, Courtside Superstores has already opened an indoor pickleball facility in Irvine, Calif. According to the Gazette, the company is planning to open 50 similar facilities nationwide by the end of 2023. The fact that the company is planning to expand aggressively implies that the Irvine location is profitable. If Courtside Superstores can make its business model work in Irvine, where it does not snow, perhaps Colorado Springs will be even more successful.
More realistic prices. When it launched, North Side Social charged $5 per player per hour on weekdays and $8 per player per hour on weekends. If a pickleball fanatic wanted to play two hours per day every day for a month, the monthly cost would be more than $320. By comparison, Courtside Superstores’ Irvine location currently offers unlimited play for $125 per month. Those who don’t want to buy a monthly membership can pay $8 per person for daylong, open play on weekdays and $10 on weekends, according to the company’s website. These prices are very reasonable compared to North Side Social.
Year-round indoor play. North Side Social was an indoor facility in the winter and spring, but in the summertime the bubble surrounding the courts was taken down. It was never clear why North Side Social expected people to pay to play outdoors (adjacent to a busy road) when pleasant public outdoor courts, which are free, are located about a mile away. By contrast, the courts inside the new facility at University Village will be located indoors year-round, providing protection not only during winter snowstorms but during summer thunderstorms and on hot or windy days.
Better facility? The bubble that surrounded the North Side Social courts swayed with the wind, causing some players to be distracted and/or experience nausea. The lighting was uneven, and some players disliked the acoustics. The courts were narrow, making it difficult to do Around the Post (ATP) shots. Because there was no walkway located between courts, players who wanted to enter courts located at the far end of the facility had to walk through other courts to get there. Hopefully, the new facility will be more player-friendly.
Better location. North Side Social was located near a Target outlet. The University Village facility will be located near a Costco. True fanatics will play anywhere, of course, but we think many rec players will look forward to shopping at Costco after they are done playing. Also, University Village is a slightly more central location for pickleballers across the city than the far-north North Side Social
There are also reasons for pessimism:
Colorado Springs’ weather isn’t all that bad. A Courtside Superstore official is quoted by the Gazette stating that “Many months out of the year, you can’t play outside.” LOL. Yes, there are days during the winter and early spring when outdoor play is impossible. On those days, demand for indoor courts will be very high. But on most winter days–even in the coldest months–there is no snow on the ground and it is often warm enough to play outdoors for free. It’s Colorado Springs, not Anchorage.
Excessively narrow courts? We mentioned above that North Side Social’s courts were too narrow. It is somewhat worrying to us that Courtside Superstores’ Irvine facility may have the same problem. Look at the amount of space between the right-hand edge of the net in this photo and the wall on the right:
It is possible that the photo is deceptive and there is more room than it appears. We hope so, anyway. (We attempted to call Courtside Superstores in Irvine, but nobody picked up.)
(Update, 12/21/21: Brett Thomas of Courtside Superstores states that they have received zero complaints and lots of Erne’s and ATP’s take place. “We are packed 7 days a week,” he says.)
The new facility will likely have competition. Dinkheads has heard from multiple sources that Life Time Fitness in Colorado Springs is planning to convert one of its eight tennis courts into four indoor dedicated pickleball courts during the first half of 2022. This will be an attractive option for players who live on the north side of town and those who want to combine pickleball with gym membership. Lifetime’s national corporate office recently said it aspires to be the nation’s largest operator of indoor pickleball facilities.
Bottom line: Dinkheads is delighted that deep-pocketed companies are investing in indoor facilities in Colorado Springs. We will be taking advantage of any new courts and hope that all the companies who enter this space are successful.