Pickleball Courts Breathe New Life Into Dying Shopping Malls

Pickleball, the most popular sport around, promises new life to the nation's empty shopping malls.

The nation's newest sports craze is poised to rejuvenate the abandoned carcasses of some stores in shopping malls across the country.

The game, a mixture of tennis, badminton and pingpong, is the fastest-growing sport in America, but it requires a large court and finding space to play has become a problem.

Enter Pickleball America, which is building an 80,000-square-foot pickleball court in what used to be a two-story Saks OFF 5th at the Stamford Town Center in Connecticut.

The group is also looking at transforming other retail spaces in New Hampshire and New Jersey.

The idea seems a perfect marriage for a sport that needs massive spaces and a dying form of retail business replaced by online shopping.

In their heyday in the 1980s, shopping malls numbered 2,500. That figure today is about 700.

"The mall just needed little bit of a boost, so with the idea of the space, it was a perfect fit," said Pickleball America co-owner Jay Waldner of the 28-court Stamford facility. Waldner also said pickleball at the mall could annually attract 500,000 players, who could also shop during their visits.

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