Ace Rodrigues Serves Up Success with Pickleball Kingdom

Ace Rodrigues Serves Up Success with Pickleball Kingdom

Growing Franchise Leverages Pickleball’s Explosive Popularity

Anyone even vaguely attuned to pop culture is aware of pickleball’s popularity. In communities coast to coast, there aren’t enough courts to go around. Enter the Pickleball Kingdom franchise, which eliminates the drawbacks of outdoor courts, caters to enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels, and helps players improve their game.

So, just how big is pickleball? More than 36.5 million Americans played pickleball from August 2021 to August 2022, according to a report by the Association of Pickleball Professionals. That total has grown, with its ranks including sports superstars LeBron James of the National Basketball Association and retired NFL quarterback Tom Brady. Pickleball also earned a plug when TV commentator/comedian Stephen Colbert hosted a nationally televised tournament in which 16 celebrities competed to raise money for Comic Relief.

But the sport has some warts when played outdoors. Cold, heat, precipitation and especially wind can thwart players’ plans, prowess and staying power. And people living near outdoor courts have complained bitterly about the slapping sounds and players’ yak during matches.

Ace Rodrigues’ Lightbulb Moment

Pickleball Kingdom franchise founder and CEO Ace Rodrigues felt those pain points and wanted to elevate the sport with indoor courts. He experienced a lightbulb moment inspiring the Pickleball Kingdom franchise. “I was blessed with the idea while waiting to play on a sunny day, standing on a dirty court on Jan. 9, 2021. I’ve been a serial entrepreneur my whole life, and I saw the explosion of the sport and the opportunity gaps it created. That was the easy part. The hard part was figuring out how to build out the systems and processes to turn a large facility of courts into a community of players who love their experience in the Kingdom.”

On May 2, 2022, he opened the first Pickleball Kingdom in Chandler, Ariz. The club has 15 individually fenced courts and loads of amenities for spectators and players. The brand began franchising in May 2023 and has awarded more than 120 franchise clubs.

Pickleball Kingdom franchise

Pickleball Popularity Will Last

He thinks pickleball has long-term appeal for two reasons. “First, the learning curve is so short. Even a self-proclaimed non-athlete can pick up the sport in five minutes and be playing for fun. No other sport has that short of a runway yet still provides an infinite ceiling of never-ending improvement opportunities. 

“Second, pickleball is incredibly social. Typically, it’s played with four people, and they’re usually not more than 20 feet apart. That provides for lots of chatter, communication and fun smack talk.

“There’s no doubt that the pickleball is here to stay. For the two reasons I mentioned, and because younger and younger people are getting into the sport, we are living in the beginning of the beginning of this great sport.”

Pickleball Kingdom TV Show

Rodrigues is doing his bit to boost the sport further, shooting a season of Pickleball Paddle Battle, a competition reality show, late last year. “We put out a casting call for elite pickleball players, and hundreds of people responded. We chose eight men and eight women from the U.S. and Canada.”

The viewing audience will vote on the winners, a man and a woman, who will receive pro contracts. “We are in negotiations with production companies, networks and platforms for where and when the show will air,” Rodrigues says.

Why Invest in Pickleball Kingdom Franchise?

Rodrigues sees vast opportunities for entrepreneurs who invest in a Pickleball Kingdom franchise. “In my 30-plus years of being in business, I have never seen a business environment so ripe to be developed. The demand is insatiable, and supply lags far behind pickleball’s popularity. Very few businesses have the recurring demand for their product as pickleball does.” Once people play indoors, they’re hooked, Rodrigues says. “A pickleball is a wiffle ball, which is designed to be affected by the wind,” and playing indoors keeps shots on course.  

Pickleball Kingdom franchises
Pickleball Kingdom franchise

Pickleball Kingdom franchises are membership-based. “We love visitors, but our clubs are built to serve our membership communities,” he explains. There are five membership levels, and members pay no court, player or drop-in fees.

“We provide everything a player needs to learn the sport, play it, get better at it, compete in it, and socialize through it. We created Pickleball 101 classes that teach people how to play. It’s free to the public, and we offer a class twice a day, seven days a week. We have mezzanines for fantastic views of the courts, snack bars, beer and wine, a pro shop, and locker rooms with showers. We house leagues, lessons and tournaments.” For details about Pickleball Kingdom franchises, visit https://pickleballkingdom.com/franchise/.

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Mary Vinnedge is an award-winning journalist who has served as editor in chief, managing editor and senior editor at national and regional publications, including SUCCESS and Design NJ magazines. She also held reporting and editing roles at The Dallas Morning News and Charlotte Observer newspapers.

Before Mary began covering franchise news and trends as a staff writer for FranchiseWire and Franchise Consultant Magazine, she developed articles on topics ranging from lifestyle, education, health and science to home projects, horticulture, gardening, interior design and architecture. These articles included her reporting on academic news at her alma mater, Texas A&M University, when Mary worked in the marketing department of the Texas A&M Foundation. She continues to be a news junkie and subscribes to several publications.

Today Mary and her husband are empty nesters living on Galveston Island near Houston. The couple’s blended family – scattered around the United States – includes five children, four grandchildren and two very spoiled, very barky miniature schnauzer rescues.
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