First Time: Places
The Sandbox at Derby
This winter there’s a new wonderland for Wichita’s pickleball players: The Sandbox at Derby, in the city’s largest suburb, plans a soft opening in January, offering four indoor pickleball courts and six outdoor (plus sand volleyball, cornhole, and other yard games). Thanks to some clever engineering, the outdoor courts will be in use year-round: A 65,000-square-foot removable dome is being constructed to cover the outdoor playing area in winter. Guests will be able to reserve courts or just walk in and while away any wait time at the venue’s two-story restaurant and bar, complete with a 5,000-square-foot deck overlooking the sports. Tournaments and leagues are planned, though the owner intends to reserve time and courts for fundraisers and clinics. (Costs for play were not available at press time.) Keep track of the progress at derbysportszone.com.
Fort Worth, Texas
Despite pickleball’s growing popularity, Fort Worth has never had a dedicated pickleball facility—until now. Last year, avid pickleball player Zach Nichols and his partners set out to establish a place where enthusiasts like themselves could “grab a cocktail or beer and play pickleball all day,” he says. That dream is about to be realized with Courtside Kitchen (pictured on opposite page), a 7,500-plus-square-foot venue that will offer a wide array of beers and cocktails, plus an extensive dinner and lunch menu from Christian Lehrmann, one of the most popular chefs in the Dallas– Fort Worth area.
But the real draw is the nine pickleball courts the team has built across more than 23,000 square feet of outdoor space. “The building has garage doors that open up directly onto the courts, so in nice weather we can roll them up and people dining inside can watch the games on the courts outside,” says Nichols. The team is anticipating a soft opening in December, with a grand opening in January 2022. “The courts will be open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.,” says Nichols. “We’ll have some open-play times, but players will also be able to reserve courts in 30-minute segments via an app.” To stay up-to-date on the opening, check out courtsidekitchenfw.com.
The HOP (House of Pickleball)
What do you get when a city listens to its pickleball players and goes all-in building public courts? This stunning 15-court pickleball park just southwest of Atlanta. “I got a call from the city manager, who asked some of us club members to look at potential sites for pickleball courts with them,” says Billy Perkins, president of the Newnan Pickleball Association, the exclusive program provider for the facility.
Once the location was chosen, the pickleballers worked closely with the architects designing the park. “We’d been to a lot of different pickleball complexes, so we incorporated things that we liked and fixed things we didn’t. For example, we put the opening to the courts near the nets rather than at the back, where balls tend to roll off, so that you rarely have a ball escape,” says Perkins. “Now we feel we have some of the most socially friendly and aesthetically pleasing courts around.” The HOP debuted August 28 and is now open 365 days a year. (Check newnanpickleball.com for open-play hours, which are free of charge.) Events, including Newnan Pickleball Club–hosted tournaments, are in the works for 2022.