First indoor cornhole venue opens in EV

Players heave bags at Hole 9 Yards, a new indoor cornhole venue opened by a pair of the sport’s devotees, Dr. Todd Kisicki of Mesa and Nic Feinstein of Queen Creek. (David Minton/Staff Photographer)

Two weeks may not sound like a long time, but when Gilbert’s Hole 9 Yards owners had plans in place for a festive grand opening on Sept. 16, supply-chain issues delayed the permitting process.

That scuttled a weekend when American Cornhole League pros from around the country planned to join local aficionados of the game for a celebration.

More delays ensued, but the big day finally arrived Sept. 30, when Dr. Todd Kisicki of Mesa and Queen Creek resident Nic Feinstein opened the 20,000-square-foot venue at 868 N. Gilbert Road, where players have 26 lanes to play or watch others while sipping a beer and grabbing a burger from Hole 9 Yards’ full kitchen and bar.

“We are excited that we are finally open after all the planning and preparations that have gone into the project,” Kisicki said.

Kisicki has been an enthusiastic fan of the sport, which began as an elevated form of the old bean bag tossing game and has elevated into a sport that could one day be an Olympics event.

As the owner of KB Kornhole Games, a cornhole-centric business that hosted hundreds of events throughout the Valley since its inception in 2015, Kisicki is well known throughout the state as he’s hosted the Arizona State Cornhole Championships since 2016. Feinstein is an ACL-sanctioned pro who is a leader in the sport.

Last year’s state championships at Mesa’s Bell Bank Park was organized by Kisicki and became the largest state championship cornhole event in the nation with an estimated 410 players, ages 8 to 80, competed in 15 different divisions.

Now national director for the American Cornhole League, Kisicki didn’t start out aiming to be one of cornhole’s most enthusiastic advocates.

He earned his doctorate at Arizona State University in education technology and taught there until he left to focus solely on his burgeoning KB Kornhole Games business with his wife of 16 years, Erin.

This summer, he often was jetting around the country and around the world, hosting cornhole tournaments in Europe, Canada, as well as South Carolina and California and overseeing more than 300 ACL directors nationwide.

He and Feinstein hatched their idea for Hole 9 Yards (H9Y) in 2019 and their concept picked up momentum during the early days of the pandemic.

By the time they opened, they not

only had added a bar and full-service restaurant to their plan but also a retail section where people can buy cornhole gear and equipment.

They’re convinced they’re tapping into an activity that seems to have unlimited potential and will be making Hole 9 Yards available for league play at all skill levels, private gatherings and open-lane rentals.

When he and his wife sponsored their first commercial cornhole event on April 11, 2015, they figured their business would be strictly a part-time, weekend gig.

“I had no idea KB Kornhole Games would ever evolve to where it is today,” Kisicki said.

“While it was initially meant to be something we could do as a family, I quickly realized that starting and running a business required a lot of effort and sacrifice and not everyone was in a place in their lives to dedicate the time that was needed to make it successful,” he said.

“So I ran with it, slowly growing it to a point to where it was consuming a lot of my extra time and eventually taking some of my concentration away from my full-time job.”

In December 2016, he recalled, “I decided to gamble on myself and jump all into the business, leaving the industry that I had spent the first 15 years of my adult life behind.”

Erin Kisicki left her full-time career as a director of training in behavioral health services, on Sept. 2 so both husband and wife can focus efforts on growing Hole 9 Yards, the national and international business of cornhole, and their daughter, Kora.

“Erin started the KB Kornhole business with me in 2015 but with her full-time job, she wasn’t active in the day-to-day operations though she helped me run the events for the first two years,” explained Kisicki.

“After a while, her job, plus having a toddler, and then me dragging her to events every weekend, took its toll and she stepped back from KB so that we didn’t have to ship our daughter off to family every weekend.”

“Our daughter, Kora, is now 8 and

wants me to give her a job at Hole 9 Yards,” he chuckled.

Kisicki partnered with Nic Feinstein of Queen Creek to lead the design, oversee the renovations and handle the business’s social media and marketing. Feinstein will help spread the word of cornhole, H9Y and industry news affecting Arizona.

“I never really needed to market with KB Kornhole Games with most of my events coming from referrals, but now with a large venue and most time slots to fill, Nic fills a void with his strong skill set that gives us a dedicated social media and marketing plan to attract new people to the sport,” said Kisicki.

As national director for the American Cornhole League, international expansion is Kisicki’s focal point. A goal of that expansion is prepping the way as a future sport in the Olympics.

If that seems a reach, consider skateboarding, surfing, sport climbing and

now breakdancing – all Olympic competitive events.

It takes some doing to be included,

said Kisicki.

“To be considered for involvement in the Olympics, a sport must be widely practiced by men in at least 75 countries and on four continents, and by women in no fewer than 40 countries and on

three continents.

To see that cornhole is established in other countries is a major task for Kisicki.

“One of my roles with the American Cornhole League is international development, and working with cornhole leaders in other countries to develop competitive cornhole in their countries,” he said.

“My role with the ACL is to help develop the competitive side of the sport in these countries. There’s also the WCO – the World Cornhole Organization – and they’re the ones who are responsible for getting the sport to the Olympics,” said Kisicki, currently a board member with the nonprofit WCO.

“Cornhole is a universal sport that anyone can play,” said Kisicki. “The wonderful part of the sport is that you can have young children, women, men and seniors all playing in the same event with no competitive advantage.”

Televising cornhole has already proved a successful draw. ESPN and their related channels began broadcasting cornhole tournaments in 2017, and in early September, CBS covered an ACL Pro Shootout Tournament during prime time.

Even with the success of competitive tournaments, Kisicki cleaves to the tagline he originated in 2015 for KB Kornhole: “Bringing people together, one kornhole at a time.”

He said he’s seen newcomers come to give the sport a try-out, then continue coming to events as they make new friends and become a part of a community of enthusiasts.

The H9Y owners hope the 26 lanes at their H9Y Gilbert venue will expand that community with people of all ages and skill levels.

Information: Hole9Yards.com.

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