It’s no surprise to Cheryl Megli how quickly pickleball has become a major recreation option in the East Valley. In fact, she wonders what took so long.
“We saw it coming,” said Megli, owner of the Tennis & Pickleball Cabana, which recently found bigger digs. “The west side of town started first, we had a store over there. And we knew it was coming to the East Valley. We just didn’t know when.”
Megli’s store off Arizona Avenue, just south of the Loop 202, offers supplies for tennis and pickleball players. It also has its own pickleball court.
She bought an existing business tabout four years after it opened.
When the lease was ending on that location, she said she wanted to move farther east to the Chandler-Gilbert areas because of how much the sport has grown there.
Besides, she said, she also needed a larger location to keep up with that growth.
“From what I hear in the pickleball world, the East Valley of Phoenix right now is the hotspot,” she said. “We are growing the fastest and building the most courts, and have the most players. It’s very exciting!”
There are an estimated 4.8 million pickleball players in the U.S., and the sport grew 14.8% from 2020 to 2021. There are 10,320 pickleball facilities nationally according to Pickleheads.com, a court data provider.
Megli said the company that built the pickleball court inside her store told her it has become the hot commodity in the homebuyer’s market.
“A lot of the new, higher-end homebuilders are putting pickleball courts into their backyards, and not as an option,” Megli said. “A lot of people in Gilbert, and the SanTan area are actually putting them in their backyards.
“And if you’re building a new senior community, you must have pickleball courts. Nobody will give it a look unless it has pickleball courts.”
Pickleball is a version of tennis, but on a much smaller court so it doesn’t require as much movement. It’s played with paddles and the balls have holes in them, so it slows the game down considerably.
It rose to prominence among seniors but Megli said that now people of all ages are playing the sport and it’s become quite popular with younger generations.
It’s become so popular that most cities and towns in the metro region have invested millions in constructing pickleball courts. And yet, pickleball fans contend there aren’t nearly enough to meet the demand.
For those who prefer the older, faster and more powerful game Megli’s store continues to sell tennis gear as well.
She said the equipment in that game has changed so much that her staff will be able to help any tennis player get the right gear for them.
One thing she stressed is that even though pickleball and tennis can be low-key recreation options, she said it’s important to have court shoes. Megli said there have been a lot of injuries because people wore the wrong shoes while playing those sports.
Megli offers a range of supplies – from the players just starting out to the more serious types who are competing in tournament.
She doesn’t doubt that it will continue to grow in popularity.
“It’s such a social sport, a fun sport,” Megli said. And it’s a sport you can pick up the first day. So a 4-year-old can literally go out there and play pickleball today without having years and years of lessons like tennis. And then it’s a natural transition for tennis players.”
Tennis & Pickleball Cabana
1400 S. Arizona Avenue, Chandler
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