Massive indoor pickleball venue coming to Stamford mall
Pickleball may be becoming America’s new favorite pastime. Described as a cross between tennis, ping pong and badminton, it is widely regarded as the fastest growing sport in the country. And now it’s coming to the heart of downtown Stamford.
Pickleball America is taking over the old Saks OFF 5th store inside the Stamford Town Center to open one of the largest indoor pickleball venues in the world.
“In total we'll have 28 courts on two floors, and we're excited about revitalizing the mall with this 80,000-square-foot pickleball center,” said Mia Schiapani, Pickleball America's chief marketing officer and one of the four founding members, all of whom are from Stamford.
“We're all passionate about sports, and we all play pickle,” Schiapani explained. She added that with so many people picking up the sport, courts are at a premium. “Pickleball is being played on all the public tennis courts, and there's just not enough courts for the demand.”
The Italian Center of Stamford is currently the only place in the city with designated pickleball courts. They put in four in the fall of 2021.
“We first started the program in our gymnasium,” explained Brian Wright, director of sports at the Italian Center. “Then we started playing on our outdoor courts during COVID, and we realized very quickly we needed to add courts. We were the first ones in Stamford to add designated pickleball courts, and since we've had the courts, it's exploded. It's been great for our membership.”
On Wednesday, News 12 caught up with some of the regulars on the courts there.
“I'm 63, and I can speak that I can cover a pickleball court at this age the way I could cover a tennis court 20 years ago,” said Joe Muscolino. “The way I like to look at it is pickleball is where tennis players can come back to life if the physicality of tennis becomes too much.”
Muscolino’s partner on the court told News 12 she first tried the sport while visiting friends in Florida a few years ago. “They said, ‘Lets' go play this game.’ So that's where I was introduced to the game and I just fell in love with it,” said Angela Spanakos.
Spanakos said she thinks pickleball is so popular because, “any skill level, any age can play. It’s just so much fun.”
She and Muscolino were excited to hear about Pickleball America’s plans.
“I think it's fabulous because half of the year, it’s very challenging to play outside, right? And the Italian Center has the ability to put two or three courts inside, but that's nowhere near enough for everything people in Stamford and other people in the area would want,” Muscolino told News 12.
Schiapani couldn’t agree more. “When it's hot, we'll have air conditioning. When it's raining, we'll still be there, you know? Allergy season, we're good,” she said.
Along with the indoor courts, Pickleball America has lockers, showers, a lounge, café and area for child care, according to Schiapani. She said the venue will also have a multi-use flex space for tournaments, exhibitions, live music and events.
"We've been focused on health and wellness, and Pickleball America works perfectly with that strategy, especially in this large format as an anchor," said Alexander Yaraghi, owner of Stamford Town Center. "Since purchasing the mall in 2020, it has been our goal to create a community-driven entertainment destination that serves Fairfield County and beyond."
Pickleball America plans to open in two phases, with the first floor and its 14 courts ready for players by June 1 and the second floor opening a few months later.
“We don't even have a website and we're booking courts till the end of the year and we're preselling memberships,” Schiapani told News 12. “It's really true what they say, there's a pickle craze.”
"We are very excited to welcome Pickleball America to Stamford," said Loren Nadres, the City of Stamford's director of Economic Development. "This venue will make Stamford a nationwide destination for the sport, and it will also serve as a vibrant multiuse event space located in the heart of our downtown."