East Coast group plans major SA indoor pickleball expansion

The deal could bring as many as 20 new venues to the area as the sport sees significant growth.

The San Antonio venues could accommodate as many as 12 indoor courts. (Nikola Tzenov, Dill Dinkers via SABJ)

SAN ANTONIO – A Maryland-based company looking to take a bigger swing at the booming pickleball business is expanding westward, and it’s struck a deal for the development of several new indoor facilities in the San Antonio market.

Dill Dinkers, which has teamed with consulting firm Franchise Well, has closed a 20-facility agreement with Brian Birdy, CEO of San Antonio property management and real estate company Birdy Properties.

“Speed to market is one of our critical values,” Ben Litalien, chief development officer for Dill Dinkers, told me. “In San Antonio, we’ve already got (letters of intent) on three properties. We’ll be locked in with our first location within a few days probably.”

The San Antonio venues could range in size, accommodating as many as a dozen pickleball courts. The climate-controlled facilities will operate on a membership basis, but guests can also purchase court time. Each will have its own facility director.

What to some may sound like a carnival game has become big business. Combining elements of tennis, ping pong and badminton, it’s now part of the professional sports landscape and has attracted some deep-pocket investors.

A 2023 report from the Sports & Fitness Industry Association notes that pickleball has remained America’s fastest growing sport over the last three years. Nearly 9 million Americans are now participating — a more than 158% increase over the three-year period.

Dill Dinkers was co-founded by Will Richards and wife Denise Richards, a former Domino’s franchisee. They opened the company’s first complex in Columbia, Maryland, and have since launched an aggressive growth plan.

San Antonio isn’t new to the sport. It’s home to Chicken N Pickle, a 10-court entertainment complex near UTSA. The Alamo City also has a pickleball association, and various venues in the area have added the sport.

You can read the full story in the San Antonio Business Journal.

Editor’s note: This story was published through a partnership between KSAT and the San Antonio Business Journal.