Pickleball Could Be The Answer To Third Street Promenade's Woes

Can pickleball revive Santa Monica’s struggling Third Street Promenade?

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The opening of Pickle Pop, an indoor pickleball club, comes at an opportune time for Santa Monica’s iconic Third Street Promenade. Once a thriving pedestrian shopping district, the Promenade has suffered declining foot traffic and rising vacancies over the past decade. Could the rapidly growing sport of pickleball provide a much-needed boost?

Quick Answer

While pickleball alone cannot instantly cure all of the Promenade’s woes, the addition of a dedicated pickleball and entertainment venue is a creative step toward revitalizing this struggling open-air mall. By attracting new visitors and activity, Pickle Pop could help nearby businesses and give the Promenade a new sense of energy and vibrancy. However, the success of the Promenade will depend on a mix of solutions to address parking, rent costs, public spaces, and the retail mix.

What has led to the decline of the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica?

The Third Street Promenade has struggled in recent years due to a combination of factors:

  • The rise of online shopping – More consumers are turning to ecommerce giants like Amazon instead of visiting traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. This shift has hit malls and shopping districts across the country.
  • Increasing popularity of outdoor malls/dining – Many consumers now prefer open-air shopping centers where they can dine al fresco. Nearby Santa Monica Place offers this outdoor experience.
  • High rents – As vacancy rates have climbed, some analysts say landlords have been unwilling to lower rents to match the changing retail landscape. The high cost of rent has hampered the ability to attract new tenants.
  • Lack of parking – Limited parking near the Promenade makes access difficult. Convenient parking helps draw shoppers.
  • Changing tastes – Retail is hypercompetitive. The Promenade must constantly evolve its merchant mix to remain relevant. Some obsolete chains have closed without new concepts to replace them.

How fast is pickleball growing as a sport?

Pickleball’s growth has exploded in recent years across age groups and regions:

  • Over 3.46 million pickleball participants in the U.S. in 2021, up 21.3% from 2019.
  • 60% of core players play multiple times per week and are willing to travel for the sport.
  • 6,790 pickleball courts added in the U.S. from 2018-2020. Courts in the U.S. expected to double by 2024.
  • Pickleball will continue growing in popularity with its mix of competition, social connections, and health benefits.

With pickleball’s momentum, it’s no surprise entrepreneurs see opportunity in indoor pickleball clubs. Facilities like Chicken N Pickle attract hardcore players plus newcomers looking to learn.

How could an indoor pickleball club help attract people back to the Third Street Promenade?

As a relatively accessible sport with growth potential, pickleball offers a creative way to get visitors returning to the Promenade, delivering potential benefits:

  • Increased foot traffic – Pickle Pop’s location near shopping and dining could boost visitors within the Promenade itself. Its indoor courts make it rain or shine.
  • Unique experience – As a popular, trending sport, pickleball offers an experiential retail option to create buzz and draw crowds. Players and spectators alike would come.
  • Fitness-focused consumers – Many drawn to pickleball focus on athletics and wellness. Nearby businesses could target these guests.
  • New customer demographics – Pickleball skews toward younger generations more than tennis. New target segments could be drawn to the area.
  • Anchor tenant appeal – A dedicated pickleball venue helps the Promenade offer something unique its competitors lack. Differentiation powers its appeal.

Still, Pickle Pop is just one part of the overall equation. The Promenade itself must evolve amenities, events, and retail/dining options to thrive long-term. Pickleball provides an innovative catalyst.

What other factors are important for revitalizing the Third Street Promenade?

While the opening of Pickle Pop could catalyze more visitors, the Promenade needs comprehensive solutions across areas like:

  • Public spaces – More seating, shade, green spaces, and events would enhance the Promenade experience. Active spaces promote community.
  • Parking improvements – Adding dedicated parking areas with affordable pricing would make the Promenade more convenient and accessible.
  • Retail mix – The Promenade should curate unique small businesses and eateries to create an eclectic local flavor and community feel.
  • Lower rental costs – Making rents affordable helps quality tenants succeed, activating vacant spaces with vibrant new uses.
  • Programming – Live music, festivals, fitness meetups, and other events bring energy and crowds.

Holistic revitalization requires collaboration between the city, businesses, and community partners. Pickleball can be one part of a broader Third Street Promenade renewal.

What are the pros and cons of using pickleball to help the Third Street Promenade?


  • Attracts new visitors and interest
  • Provides family-friendly recreation
  • Appeals to a range of ages
  • Encourages exercise and wellness
  • Offers affordable entertainment
  • Generates revenue for venue and area
  • Creates anchor tenant to attract other development
  • Differs from nearby mall experiences
  • Fills vacant spaces with lively activity


  • Niche appeal compared to mainstream sports
  • Space-intensive for indoor courts
  • Startup costs for dedicated facilities
  • Limited ability to drive spending outside venue
  • Can’t singlehandedly transform broader area
  • Dependent on long-term popularity of sport
  • Risk of oversaturating market as sport grows

On balance, the unique upside of pickleball outweighs the limitations. As part of a broader strategy, it can positively contribute to the Third Street Promenade’s revitalization.

What predictions can be made about pickleball’s future growth?

As pickleball expands from a niche to mainstream sport, several predictions can be made about its future:

  • Continued participation growth – The sport’s popularity with younger and middle-aged adults points to growth potential not yet fully tapped. Participation could triple in the next 5 years.
  • More pickleball on TV/streaming – Increased broadcast deals will drive more fans. The recent ESPNU Collegiate Pickleball Championships are the start of expanded coverage.
  • Rise of pro pickleball – More young talent turning pro will increase competitiveness and spotlight. The pro tour and tournaments will gain prominence, as tennis did.
  • Innovation in gear and apparel – Expect equipment and fashion to evolve from early niche players. Sponsorships will drive mass brand adoption.
  • Increase in indoor venues – Real estate developers and entrepreneurs will build dedicated pickleball facilities to capitalize on demand. Existing tennis centers are converting courts too.
  • International expansion – Pickleball will spread rapidly beyond U.S. and Canada into markets like Asia and South America, further cementing its global status.

Isn’t pickleball just an activity for retirees?

While initially associated with older players, pickleball has expanded far beyond that misconception:

  • Around 40% of core players are under 55 according to USA Pickleball, with especially strong growth among ages 18-34.
  • Universities now offer pickleball as intramural and club sports. The first collegiate championship aired on TV in 2022.
  • The USA Pickleball Association has over 50,000 members under 18. There are youth tournaments and training camps.
  • Crossover by athletes from tennis, badminton, ping pong and other sports brings younger competitors.
  • Many facilities attract a wide mix of ages for recreational and competitive play.

As awareness spreads, pickleball’s intergenerational appeal comes to light. While popular with active seniors, the sport engages anyone looking for a fun workout.

What tips would help someone new to pickleball get started?

Here are 5 tips to help beginners start playing pickleball:

  • Take a lesson – Get pro instruction on basics like paddle grip, footwork, shots. Having a solid foundation makes learning easier and more fun.
  • Use appropriate gear – Start with a USAPA-approved paddle and indoor/outdoor balls to match where you’ll play. Proper shoes also help prevent injury.
  • Find others at your level – Playing with fellow beginners lets you learn together at an introductory pace. Avoid getting discouraged by advanced opponent.
  • Focus on consistency – Work on simply getting the ball over the net reliably. As that improves, then add speed and placement. Baby steps!
  • Watch the pros – Seek out tournaments and pro matches online to visualize tactics and skills to aspire toward. Analyze their techniques.

The welcoming social nature of pickleball appeals to novices. With practice over time, the sky’s the limit!


The Third Street Promenade faces challenges but has strong bones and character. By adding creative anchors like indoor pickleball, improving public spaces, lowering rents, and curating a fresh merchant mix, the Promenade can regain its mojo as a beloved community hub. Pickleball alone won’t solve every issue, but it injects new energy into the mix. Santa Monica would be wise to embrace pickleball as part of its Third Street Promenade renewal strategy. The sound of pickleballs pinging on the Promenade could signal a fresh era ahead.


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