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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

How do you breathe life into a vacant supermarket? Pickleball, of course

Entrepreneur Dan Jenkins stands inside Pickleball Kingdom's still-under-construction indoor facility in Plano.    (Elias Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News/TNS)
By Irving Mejia-Hilario Dallas Morning News

North Texas will become home to some of the biggest pickleball facilities in the nation next year.

Dallas entrepreneur Dan Jenkins secured rights from Pickleball Kingdom, a Chandler, Arizona-based indoor pickleball franchise, to open five new locations in North Texas. He’s looking at sites in Grapevine, Prosper and Flower Mound.

But Plano and Keller will get the biggest of the bunch.

The Plano and Keller facilities will be at least 40,000 square feet. The Plano facility, a former Albertsons grocery store at 1301 Custer Road, will boast 15 pickleball courts. The Keller facility to be constructed at 971 Keller Parkway will have 17 courts.

“We’re going to do a high-end indoor experience that’s different and takes the benefits and best parts of outdoor pickleball and brings it into an indoor environment,” Jenkins said. “It’s going to be a higher-end experience than an outdoor experience.”

Plano’s Pickleball Kingdom will also feature a food and beverage cafe, an internet cafe and host pickleball classes and corporate events.

Jenkins wouldn’t say how much it will cost to turn the vacant anchor store into a pickleball facility but described it as a “significant investment.” A state permit estimates the renovation at $350,000.

For Jenkins, finding a worthy space for his kingdom was a challenge.

“It’s very difficult to find a place big enough for a 40,000-square-foot facility and for the right rental rate in the right location,” he said. “We’ve been all over North Texas, but this one just bubbled to the top first.”

Jenkins, also known as “Papa Pickle,” has a long history with the sport. Pickleball was born on Bainbridge Island, Washington, only 25 minutes from a summer camp where he was a counselor. He was immediately enamored with the sport.

“It covers literally the entire spectrum,” Jenkins said. “It’s social, athletic, fun and easy to do. That’s where we come in. We want to provide great indoor experiences for people that want to pursue it.”

In Dallas-Fort Worth, the sport has gained so much popularity that the Pickleball National Championships will be played Nov. 5-12 at Brookhaven Country Club in Farmers Branch. Over 3,500 amateur and professional players from 48 states are expected. Organizers say the event will provide a $10 million boost to the local economy.

Jenkins said pickleball’s appeal to all age groups is why he thinks there is a market hungry for more courts.

“I got invested because I’m a real estate developer by history. But we see the demand for indoor courts and, being a real estate developer, I said to myself, ‘Well, it looks like we need more courts,’” Jenkins said. “So that led to conversations, which ultimately led me to discovering Pickleball Kingdom as a franchise opportunity.”

The Plano facility is to open in January 2024. Jenkins said he’s shooting to open the Keller facility around a year from now.

Jenkins said he isn’t concerned the sport’s popularity will die down between now and then.

“I don’t have a crystal ball. But I would say that the qualities or the benefits of the sport have a good opportunity to be long-lasting,” he said. “Pickleball has a much broader audience than something like competitive tennis does. So I feel pretty good about this.”