The Galapagos Archipelago is a special place. There is more to a day’s expedition than just discovering the unique natural wonders of the islands. The evenings are a fun opportunity to dine with other cruise passengers from around the world, all with different life experiences and stories to tell.

Boston retirees, Jeff and Judy tell us they escape the winter snow of the U.S. North East by annually migrating to Florida to enjoy the sun and the beach. Their enjoyment of Florida’s weather is easily surpassed by their enthusiasm for their competitive sport of choice for retirees – Pickleball. They are not alone. There are over 3 million Pickleball players in the US, with amateur competitions taking place in thousands of town and cities across the country. Not surprisingly the sport of Pickleball centres around retirement villages, most particularly in The Villages of Florida. Jeff and Judy say it’s the fastest growing sport in the country; perhaps even the world.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a mixture of tennis, badminton and ping-pong played on a badminton-sized court over a low tennis net. It is ideal for seniors who can no longer run around a tennis court but love the fitness and fun of this crazy game with the silly name. It is played either indoors or out, as singles or doubles with a paddle like a ping-pong bat on steroids and a whiffle ball — a light plastic ball with holes in it. Paddles are made with from graphite, a honeycomb polymer or even plywood for beginners.  The ‘tonk-plonk’ sound along with raucous laughter heralds a Pickleball game in progress.

The scoring takes you through to eleven and the winners must be ahead by two. Because the games are relatively short, players waiting in the wings for a court are assured of a game without much delay.

The Pickleball Association of Australia Inc., comprises an enthusiastic committee of twelve, with the largest proportion of players residing in south and north Queensland at present. It is growing rapidly around the country with centres in NSW, Victoria and W.A.

What does Pickleball have to do will Commercial Real Estate?

In the relatively specialised commercial real estate type of retirement village properties there is a growing awareness amongst landlords of the need for product differentiation.

For example, Stockland already works with Bowls Australia under a partnership to encourage Stockland retirement village residents to participate in social and competitive lawn bowls.

Stockland General Manager of Retirement Living, Anna Learmonth says, “This is all about encouraging happier, healthier, more active residents at all of our villages.”

However, Stockland won’t be first with Pickleball in Australia. Queensland Retirement Village operator, Halcyon has already identified the differentiating potential of Pickleball. They have Pickleball facilities at a number of their sites and are planning to rollout more.

What can Commercial Property Landlords learn from Pickleball?

In the U.S., every retirement village in Florida has a Pickleball facility which are used daily, and are highly valued by their health-conscious and competitive residents. Retirement Village operators see the Pickleball facilities as a way to add value to their offering and improve their property investor returns.

In fact, we’re starting to see the same philosophy applied to all commercial property types.  The latest US research data shows that amenities is the key focus areas where landlords can add the most value for their tenants such as high-quality on-site food and beverage options, flexible common workspaces and by providing better access to health and wellness services.

Soft services like pop-up lunchtime fitness classes, self-improvement workshops and even after hours events can be combined with useful content, valuable partnerships and exclusive offers to create a unique experience.

Pickleball, with its funny name, may not be what your tenants are looking for right now. However landlords are searching for new amenities to make their real estate standout from the crowd. What will be your Pickleball moment?