Heeding the call of its membership, Little Rock Athletic Club will cut the ribbon on a gorgeous new pickleball facility in March, an ambitious project for the popular game in Arkansas.

 

“At the club, we have what we consider four pillars of business: tennis, swimming, family and fitness,” said Frank Lawrence, CEO of Little Rock Athletic Centers. “We think pickleball will become our fifth pillar of business. We think it’s a significant offering to our membership and potential membership. It’s probably the thing I’ve been most excited about in 30 years at the club.”

Frank Lawrence

The new standalone facility brings online 22,000 square feet of courts and other space on the Athletic Club campus. The new structure offers eight indoor courts and four outdoor courts, as well as social areas, Lawrence said.

 

“It’s the first indoor facility in central Arkansas dedicated solely to pickleball, that I’m aware of,” he said. “It features a cushioned court surface that’s a little easier on the body. It also offers a very specific social area inside the court where people can be a part of the action, as well as restrooms and a players’ lounge area. The outdoor area also has a great viewing and recreation area around the outdoor courts.”

 

The planning for the new facility goes back to the COVID-19 pandemic when members began approaching LRAC management about installing pickleball courts. At first the club shared use of its existing tennis courts with temporary striping, but the runaway popularity of pickleball soon made it clear that a more ambitious solution was needed.

“I can remember it vividly. It was in December 2021. It was a Friday night, and I was going to a Christmas party,” Lawrence said. “The event was right by the Country Club of Little Rock, which had just built some pickleball courts. It was 8 o’clock at night, and I started hearing, ‘dink, dink, dink.’ It was people playing pickleball.

 

“That was proof of concept for me. I was like, OK, that solidifies that we’re going to build a facility and really dedicate resources toward this sport.”

 

Little Rock Athletic Club broke ground on the project in April. Fennell Purifoy was the architect, Joe White & Associates was the engineering firm, and Dave Grundfest Construction Co. built the facility. Lawrence said the $3.2 million price tag is an investment in the future of the club and provides an amenity that can be used and enjoyed by a wide demographic within the membership.

“Pickleball is unique in that it appeals to so many people, ages and abilities,” he said. “We have members playing who are brand new to the sport, and we have members who compete at a high level. The sport began with older athletes and has since become younger and younger. The average age of athletes nationally is now people in their late 30s.

 

“I think you will continue to see the sport grow by getting younger and younger, as well as older and older. It’s really cool that it spans from 5-year-olds up to 85-year-olds playing, and we’re delighted to be able to provide this new facility for their enjoyment.”

pickleball

For more information contact:

Frank Lawrence, CEO

franklawrence@lrac.com

501-626-2265

 

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