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Swing takes aim at the racquet sports playing experience
Innovative nationwide Sportstainment venues headlined by a 45-acre flagship campus look to create more availability and participation in racquet and paddle sports.
Published Mar 16, 2023
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A Disney World for racquet sports.
That’s the concept behind Swing Racquet + Paddle. Tennis, pickleball, padel, ping pong and beach tennis all combined in an immersive first-of-its-kind multi-sport “Sportstainment” amusement park. With food, beverage, games and technology aimed at younger audiences, the venues are designed to provide easy access and drive interest in the sports.
Swing’s flagship location will be a sprawling 45-acre campus in Raleigh, N.C., set to break ground in June of 2023, and open to the public by late 2024. With 70 combined tennis, pickleball and padel courts, it will be the largest multi-racquet facility in the world. Over the subsequent four years, four more locations with smaller footprints designed to house 24 courts are planned throughout the Sun Belt. After assessing operations for a year, the strategy is to then roll out 8-10 more per year with the goal of 59 locations over the next 10 years.
With eatertainment—combining food/drink with other activities—becoming increasingly popular, Swing will have a restaurant but wants to put sports first. Whether hosting leagues and tournaments, running clinics for newcomers, or simply as an outlet for some exercise, they hope to draw people together through a common connection. Each location will offer standard memberships, but also keep plenty of inventory reserved for the walk-up and play customer.
“Our big picture mission is to put a racquet or paddle in everybody’s hands,” says Jason DeGroff, President and Managing Partner of Swing Racquet + Paddle. “We kind of think of ourselves as an anti-country club in terms of accessibility.”
That not only goes for availability, but also in terms of feel. Swing will entice patrons with a user-friendly, diverting atmosphere. In addition to the food and drink, non-traditional formats such as hitting moving targets, playing against a computerized wall and other gamification will incorporate technology to play up the fun factor. This is not only attractive to younger and novice players, but an entertaining, sociable night out for adults. And ultimately can be a gateway to lasting relationship with the sports.
“We’ve been called a Top Golf for racquet sports,” says DeGroff. “We got a lot of inspiration from that eatertainment model. They attracted a lot of people into the game who had never touched a golf club before.”
Another lure of Swing is its early adoption of padel. Played primarily as doubles in an enclosed court, compared to pickleball padel more closely resembles the rules and play of tennis, and is thought to be the fastest growing sport in Europe and South America. In Spain, home of Rafael Nadal, padel has surpassed tennis in terms of players and courts. However, the sport is still a relatively unknown product in this country. Except for a few pockets, courts are extremely hard to find.
“You look at every country where padel has taken and it’s a hockey stick like growth,” says DeGroff. “We expect it to be as big as tennis in the next 15 years. We’re very bullish on its growth and we’re making a big bet on it.”
The same could be said of Wilson. The sporting goods company, long a prominent racquet sports manufacturer, is joining up with Swing as a leading sponsor. The Raleigh campus will house a Wilson Stringing Bar for tennis racquets, as well as be a hub for Wilson Labs, the company’s research and development arm. Additionally, they will serve an integral role in local programming, sponsoring scholarships, and other charitable initiatives all designed to help spur participation in the sports. Swing locations will also have brick and mortar Wilson retail stores that will showcase the brand’s latest equipment and sportswear.
“Wilson is thrilled to align with Swing to bring multiple racquet and paddle sports under one roof,” said Joe Dudy, President and CEO of Wilson Sporting Goods. “It is just what the industry needs. We cannot wait to see Swing come to life in Raleigh and beyond.”
For racquet sports enthusiasts, Swing could turn out to be the happiest place on Earth.