In January 2021, an indoor/outdoor, eight-court pickleball facility in Colorado Springs opened with great fanfare. On cold, snowy days in February and March, the courts were packed. Just a few months later, when the weather improved, business dried up and the facility permanently shut down. The company’s founder, Mitch Yellin, told Dinkheads that pickleball players preferred to play on public courts, which are abundant in Colorado Springs and free. Most players didn’t buy food and drinks from Yellin’s restaurant and bar located adjacent to the courts. He said he is done trying to structure a business around pickleball. Another company with a similar business model (pickleball + restaurant + bar) is planning to open an indoor facility in Colorado Springs this spring. Yellin is pessimistic about the company’s prospects.
He has a point. It’s hard to compete with free.
But in Orem, Utah, Devan and Mike Egan are doing just that — and they are succeeding.
The Egans are co-founders of Club Pickleball USA, which opened in January 2021. The facility contains 15 outdoor-surfaced courts. Anyone can reserve a court; prices are lower for members. Thousands of people, including professionals such as Tyler Loong, Austin Gridley, Chuck Taylor, and Callie Smith have played there. The facility is so successful that Egan is planning to open a second one later this year.
Club Pickleball USA has a pro shop, along with cold drinks and snacks. But there is no restaurant and no beer. The business model emphasizes pickleball, pickleball, and pickleball. The majority of revenues come from memberships, tournaments, events, and court fees.
Why do people pay to play at Club Pickleball USA when free public courts are available nearby?
First and foremost, there is no waiting. The club’s motto is “freedom to play.” In the surrounding area, Devan Egan told Dinkheads, the public courts are flooded with people in the mornings and evenings with lengthy wait times. Even though Utah County has a lot of public courts, the demand continues to exceed court availability.
Second, the facility is state of the art. Each court meets the minimum tournament standard of 60 feet x 30 feet with two championship courts that are larger. Each court features backstop fencing and the Club uses portable net dividers as ball stops between courts. It keeps the Club feeling open, inviting and better for spectators. There is plenty of space next to the courts for Around the Post (ATP) shots and Ernes. The building is climate-controlled and well-lighted. Egan told Dinkheads the facility’s busiest times are 5 am and 9 pm when it’s often too dark or cold to play outside.
Third, the prices are reasonable, at least compared to other indoor facilities. For members, playing doubles every day for 2 hours would cost you $120 per month ($2 per player per hour), while visitors pay up to $8 per player per hour. The total cost of playing for two hours per day every day–both Diamond membership and court fees–is about $160 per month. That’s less than half of what some other facilities charge. Granted, not every avid pickleball player is going to be able to shell out that kind of money every month, but some can and do.
Fourth, Egan said he and his father have worked to foster a sense of community. Even when the weather is nice outside, people play at Club Pickleball USA because they know their friends will be there. Who knows, you might even get to play against a pro:
Every day the Club hosts events such as round robins and ladder leagues that allow people to play with others of similar ability. There are classes and clinics for kids and adults alike:
The Club features cameras on six its courts where players can request their game footage through what’s called “Club Camera.” Members receive five requests for free each month, and visitors pay $8 per hour of footage or $5 for a highlight play.
The Egans themselves play at Club Pickleball USA (they are both 4.0s) and know many of their patrons personally.
Kudos to the Egans for figuring out a way to bring high-quality indoor pickleball to Utahans at a reasonable price point. Let’s hope other entrepreneurs follow in their footsteps.