Don't Waste Your Money


Pickleball is the hottest new sport, but is it still affordable?

Rackets and shoes can now cost over $100.
Posted at 10:30 AM, Apr 26, 2024

With an estimated 36 million players, pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in the U.S., especially during the past five years.

One reason: It’s touted as an affordable hobby to take up.

But with so much growth, so fast, is that still the case?

Pickleball, after all, is no longer your grandparents' sport, something primarily played in senior communities in the 1980s and '90s.

Young professionals Dylan Patel and Anna McNamara recently got the pickleball bug.

"I really like it! I have never played a sport like this before," McNamara said.

"It just seems like it's a sport that everybody enjoys playing and has picked up recently," Patel said.

Tennis courts converting to pickleball

Mitch Dunn is co-owner of The Pickle Lodge, a former underused tennis center in West Chester, Ohio.

It has been fully refurbished in the past year and is now packed with pickleball players every weekend.

Playing ball at the Pickle Lodge

"You can have dinner here, a drink at our bar, it's even good for date night," he said.

It is one of many former tennis courts now converted into pickleball facilities, with tennis being too difficult for many people to play well.

He says the game has exploded since the pandemic because it is easy to learn and affordable.

"Anyone can play pickleball," Dunn said. "If you are just even somewhat athletic, you can play a good pickleball game in about 5 minutes."

Bar and grill at the Pickle Lodge

The site GOBankingRates named pickleball one of the six sports you can take up for less than $500, because all you really need is a simple paddle and a good set of gym shoes.

Dunn agrees, saying beginners don’t need anything high-end.

"You can still go and buy a $20 paddle from Amazon and play a really good game of pickleball," he said.

You can join an indoor facility like The Pickle Lodge for as low as $39 a month, or play at free municipal courts outdoors, weather permitting.

Not sure? Start with a simple driveway starter kit for just $75.

But sporting goods store manager Patrick Eichold of Koch Sporting Goods cautions some pickleball rackets are getting pricey.

"For somebody that might have professional aspirations, we have rackets that sell for $99.99," he said.

You can even get carried away with pickleball shoes for more than $100 a pair.

But don't panic: Online prices tell a different story.

We asked the ecommerce accelerator Pattern to run the numbers.

It found pickleball paddles, portable nets and balls are actually down in price compared to last year, and down much more compared to tennis gear.

If you are looking for ways to save, pickleball pros say:

  • Start simple
  • Look for used gear
  • Wear comfortable tennis or gym shoes you already have
  • Split court costs with friends

Dylan Patel says even with more expensive rackets and indoor court fees, it's still a lot cheaper than tennis or golf.
"I definitely think it's a lot more affordable than some other sports," he said.

So give it a try. You can even wear your old gym shoes.

And that way you don't waste your money.


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