America’s fastest growing sport is coming to your mall

Your neighborhood mall will soon have pickleball instead of the shuttered Bed Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, and Saks Off 5th shops.

Although it may seem like an odd tactic, the game has advantages for mall owners as well as pickleball players.

To fill vacancies and attract customers beyond their traditional department store anchors and clothing stores, malls need new tenants.

Consumers have switched their spending from goods to experiences like theaters, arcades, and amusement parks because they are yearning for enjoyable, social encounters after years of sparse socialization due to the pandemic.

According to a report released this week by real estate investment firm JLL, malls are adapting to these trends by bringing in a wider variety of tenants and activities to attract customers.

Pickleball is the sport with the fastest growth in the US. The game's supporters and creators are in a desperate search for empty lots where they can erect courts.

Pickleball, a sport that incorporates elements of ping-pong, badminton, and tennis, was invented in 1965. But since the pandemic, it has increased drastically.

8.5 million people played pickleball in 2022, up 159% over the previous three years, according to a trade association called the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

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