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Pickleball could be coming to a mall near you, thanks to Picklemall

As pickleball's popularity continues to grow, Picklemall Founder Steve Kuhn and Picklemall CEO West Shaw join Yahoo Finance Live to discuss Picklemall building indoor pickleball courts in malls seeking new tenants.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: Malls are getting a second serve. There is a new plan for struggling retail real estate, and it involves America's fastest growing sport-- pickleball. A new company called Picklemall is looking to transform vacant retail spaces into indoor pickleball courts. Their mission is big-- establish 50 locations across the US in the next two years. The first location is opening next month in Arizona.

Joining us now is Picklemall founder Steve Kuhn, as well as Picklemall's CEO, West Shaw. Great to see both of you here, Steve and West. Steve, let me start with you, because you've been betting big on pickleball now for quite some time. The sport, the growth of it has been exploding. Why does pickleball make sense?

STEVE KUHN: Well, the biggest problem we have and continuing the massive growth we've seen in pickleball is we need more courts. The stats are there's one tennis court for every 30 tennis players. There's only one pickleball court, one dedicated pickleball court for every 250 pickleball players. We need a lot more courts. As anyone who's tried to play on a public court and waited for hours to play would tell you, we need more courts, and Picklemall is working to try and bring more courts and bring a great experience to more players.

- So, Steve, I got to ask you about what demand looks like now. So we saw an increase over the past couple of years, but I worry that this is like just a trend because you see some sports trends, some athletic trends come and go. What are you seeing in terms of demand for 2023?

STEVE KUHN: Demand is off the charts. We've gone from 5 million players two years ago to 35 million players in the last two years. And we have not been able to keep the pace of building courts up with that pace and growth of number of players. It's absolutely crazy how fast the sport is growing. And one thing I say about-- some people say is this only a fad. And I respond to them is, I don't know anybody who has got into pickleball who ever gets out of it. Once you're in, you love it. We don't lose people. So that's why I don't think this is a fad.

SEANA SMITH: So West, the growth of Picklemall obviously very ambitious. 50 locations you want to open over the next two years. West, how are you identifying those attractive areas where you're planning to put Picklemall courts here over the next several months?

WEST SHAW: Yeah, actually, so we use a lot of Google queries to figure out exactly where people are, where they're wanting to play. And the great thing about pickleball is that it's growing nationwide at an unprecedented rate. So a lot of times, it's just figuring out what makes sense in our growth strategy. Where do we want to grow to first?

- So West, let me follow that with a question just about noise. There's been a question about like how noisy pickleball can be, say, compared to tennis. What are you going to do about, say, potential complaints that could come up?

WEST SHAW: Yeah, well, we're doing our best to mitigate those complaints by actually doing sound dampening, putting sound dampening devices in our facilities, trying to capture some of that noise. A lot of the times, we're-- the doors are closed. And so the dampening devices that we have there will help mitigate a lot of that sound. The great thing is, being indoors, we don't have to deal with the neighbors hearing the noise. We just have to deal with our tenant.

SEANA SMITH: That's a positive spin. And West, I like that. Steve, talk to us just about the concept of pickleball, the sport, obviously, exploding in popularity. What is it about pickleball-- I've been trying to figure this out now for quite some time-- that makes it so popular? Is it the fact that almost anyone can play, it seems like?

STEVE KUHN: Yeah, in terms of a tech startup, you're talking about the total addressable market, the TAM. The total addressable market of this sport is higher than any other sport. More people can play it and enjoy it almost immediately than any other sport I've ever seen. Also I think a big part of this is-- I hear this so often from pickleball players, is, they-- this is a sport that they can play with their kids, they can play with their parents. You can see sometimes four generations of a family playing together. And I think that makes it completely unique and special. And it's building family memories for people. And I think that's a huge part of what makes this special.

- So, West, I want to ask you, when I'm coming to, say, Picklemall, how do I-- if I'm a newbie. I've never played this before. What do I do? Like, do I sign up in an app? What do I even do? I've picked up a tennis racket before, but not this.

WEST SHAW: Yeah, so in the next month, our app will be released on the Apple Store and Android store as well. And you'll be able to go in there. You can sign up for your court reservation time. You can filter through a list of videos that we'll have on our app that'll explain, what's the first step into pickleball? How do you pick up the paddle? And then you can go in there, book your court time, show up, go play, have fun, and continue to play.

SEANA SMITH: Where are you getting-- Steve, where are you getting the best deals on some of these locations that you are seeing? And in terms of that future growth that you were talking about, yes, you're expanding here in the US. What about overseas?

STEVE KUHN: Well, we definitely have a target of overseas. But obviously, we're starting in the US. That's where the sport is biggest now. And I think for a shopping mall, what you really want to bring in to make your other tenants the happiest is an experiential concept, something that brings people to the mall that they have to-- they can't shop on Amazon for it. They have to go to the mall to do.

And Picklemall definitely is that. And I think that's what shopping malls want. That's what their tenants want. And they want us to deliver that and deliver those customers, especially delivering those customers Monday through Friday. That is a huge value add for these malls. So I think we're viewed as a great tenant, someone that makes the mall more successful, not just ourselves, but the rest of the tenants of that mall as well.

SEANA SMITH: Steve, are you in talks with mall operators? How do these deals come about?

STEVE KUHN: Yes, we are. West, maybe you want to take that one? That's probably more in your camp than mine.

WEST SHAW: Yes. Yeah, we are in talks with mall operators. We've been working closely with Simon Property Group because they obviously own Arizona Mills Shopping Center, which is where Tempe-- our Tempe location is. And then we have got a list of brokers that are helping us gather other locations as well.

SEANA SMITH: All right, well, Picklemall Steve Kuhn and West Shaw, thanks so much for joining us here. You guys got to let us know when you open up a location right around New York. We got to go check it out soon.

STEVE KUHN: We'll do that, for sure.

WEST SHAW: Working on it.

SEANA SMITH: All right, thanks so much, guys.