Getting expert advice is priceless! CourtReserve sat down with Werner from the Pickleball Zone in Bend, Oregon. Werner gave us his tips and tricks to opening up your own club. Below are some of the most important topics to consider.
Building your facility and courts are key factors in opening your club and here are some things we found when building our club in Bend, Oregon.
We put down cushioned courts. A cushion court is made from a concrete base with a layer of recycled tire bits on top, followed by a layer of white cord binder. Let it sit for 36 hours. Repeat the process 6 times. All of the standard pickleballs still play true even on a cushioned court. Getting cushion courts is more expensive, however players love the difference they make!
Colors of Your Courts
You also want to keep in mind the colors of the courts and the walls. We use blue as the playing service color and then light grey for the ‘kitchen’ color – the light gray is similar to the wall color. Not only do the walls and the ‘kitchen’ colors match, but it is also much easier to see a neon ball coming against a light grey background.
Lighting & Ceiling Height for Courts
Lighting, visibility, and managing glare, are all very important. We had lighting companies evaluate our facility to see what fixtures we would need. The advice we got is that you definitely don’t want to be cheap on the lighting. It makes a difference!
Memberships At Your Club
When opening a pickleball club you need to make sure you have a good base of players. We had around 500 people already playing in the area and you don’t want to be trying to start a club from scratch. He strongly recommends using annual memberships. A good example is if you are in an area where it’s beautiful during the summer, members will only play during the summer, they won’t go indoors for the other months. Therefore, a large percentage of members are only paying for a few months out of the year. By doing annual memberships you have income you can count on – a 12-month, pre-paid income. Billing annually is much easier than processing billing monthly.
Reserving Courts as Part of the Membership
Pickleball Zone has their court fees set up where Public players can rent a count at $30/hour. They can bring up to 5-6 people. This way of renting courts is $10-12/person depending on the group size. Members, however, get to reserve their courts at no charge. This is a great incentive for public players to switch over to a paid membership. They can reserve a court for up to 2 hours a day, 7 days a week. The public players can book a court up to 5 days in advance, while the members get to book up to 6 days in advance. Again, it’s a great incentive for public players to purchase a membership to get the priority of the members when booking courts. 5 out of the 8 courts are reserved for Member Play. If these courts are not booked 24-hours prior, they are now available for Public Play.
Programming, Classes and Clinics
Some Pickleball clubs like to dedicate at least 1 to 2 courts for lessons and/or clinics. Lessons and Clinics can be huge for clubs – they’re great for the players and can generate a lot of income for the clubs. Clubs have to be creative and evaluate which classes are bringing in the players along with the revenue. We have found these to be popular:
Beginners Pickleball Clinic (Introduction to pickleball)
Intermediate Pickleball Clinic
Advanced Pickleball Clinic
Kid’s pickleball camps & clinics
Match play critique – a pro watches and critiques the match
Round Robins are the perfect thing to let players get to meet new people. We usually have 3 courts for a 12-player Round Robin. Matches are timed at 14-minutes a match – this way players don’t have to sit out too long. Another popular clinic is the Challenge Core Play. This is an event that occurs in the evening. Different courts are set aside for different skill levels.
One of the most popular is Play with the Staff. We have found that players love to get to play with the staff, so we created a ‘Play with the Staff’ night where it’s a mix of the Pros and the staff playing with the members. Make sure that your clinics are based on Ratings. Make sure that your members / public players are all rated! This will help the clinics be more productive.
Staff and Instructors
We found that you have to be mindful of how many employees you need. You need someone answering the phone, checking people in along with showing people around / taking them to their courts. You also have to think about who is running the pro shop / lounge and who is handing out vendor shoes or paddles. When paying your Pros you also need to consider:
Are you providing the equipment? The balls, baskets, ball retrievers?
Are you allowing them to use the software platform like CourtReserve to schedule?
If yes to these, then it might be better to put them on an hourly rate rather than splitting rates with them.
We appreciate the experience and advice that we learned with Werner from the Pickleball Zone. You can listen to the entire recorded webinar on the CourtReserve Pickleball Education Series