BALTIMORE, MD—Seeking to capitalize on the continued demand for indoor pickleball courts, a group of investors including Gil Schuerholz, co-owner of Forty West Tennis Club in Catonsville, a former tennis professional and a member of the Towson University Athletic Hall of Fame, is bringing a new 10-court indoor pickleball venue to Baltimore County.
The ownership team, which includes local businessmen Bill Henderson and Joe Opauski, plan to open Pickleball House at St. John Properties’ Greenleigh, a 1,000-acre mixed-use business community located in Middle River in early November. The investor group signed a lease for 27,130 square feet of space at 1330 Innovation Street with Bill Jautze of St. John Properties representing the landlord and Dylan Bozel and Matt Mueller of MacKenzie Commercial Real Estate Services representing the tenant.
“Our group fully realizes that a number of operators are rushing to bring new indoor pickleball venues to market based on the sport’s popularity, but we intend Pickleball House to be a world-class facility featuring top-of-the-line finishes that others will wish to emulate,” stated Gil Schuerholz, a former Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) player who has been involved in the tennis industry locally for more than 30 years. “The facility will be state-of-the-art in every way, will accommodate all player skill levels from beginner to professional, and will be staffed by a highly-experienced team.”
Pickleball House recruited Scott Thornton, a USA Pickleball Ambassador in Orlando, Florida, and Director of Racket Sports/Facility Manager for Orlando Tennis Centre as its General Manager.
“Given his national pickleball contacts, understanding of the business side of athletics and overall professionalism and instincts, his leadership skills will be a game-changer for us,” Schuerholz added. “We will surround him with equally-impressive teaching professionals and intend to sponsor clinics, educational sessions, and tournaments that players from around the country will attend.”
Schuerholz, explains that each court will be professionally measured to adhere to the legal 30 x 60-foot size, and the facility equipped with enhanced lighting and acoustical treatments to provide the highest quality playing experience. Pickleball House will also feature full-service locker rooms with showers, a pro shop, and televisions in the lounge areas. A centre court feature will be created with bleacher seating for enhanced environment and viewing of high-profile matches. The facility will offer men’s, women’s and co-ed leagues, children’s programming, open play, and weekend tournaments geared to all skill levels.
“The amazing growth of pickleball reminds me of the tennis craze in the late 70s and 80s,” Schuerholz added. “Like most people, it only took playing pickleball one time for me to become smitten with the sport. My wife and I were visiting Scott Thornton in Florida when he invited us to play and I immediately understood why people are literally crazy about it. Upon my return to Baltimore, I began putting the wheels in motion to open a pickleball venue with my eyes set on Howard County. That is when I teamed up with Bill and Joe, who were searching in the Carroll County area. We settled on Greenleigh, in part due to the unparalleled environment, which offers the opportunity to target people who work and live in the community. Its prime location will enable players to visit us from a large radius as well.
“I have learned an incredible amount about the business operations of an athletic facility from my experience co-owning Forty West Tennis Club, but we will create separation from others based on the background that Bill brings as a Certified Public Accountant, and the engineering expertise provided by Joe. Coupled with the knowledge of our general manager, we have a team that will focus on a specific discipline and deliver a one-of-a-kind pickleball experience to Baltimore County. We intend to engage every demographic group of the local community and target local businesses for leagues and team-building exercises.”
Pickleball House has room for an additional six outdoor courts, which the ownership group indicates “is an option that may occur in the future” and, according to Schuerholz, they intend to explore expansion to other locations in the greater Baltimore metropolitan region as well.
According to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association, more than nine million people participated in the sport at least once since 2022 and, for the third year in a row, pickleball has been the nation’s fastest-growing sport. Sports stars Kevin Durant, Lebron James, and Tom Brady are among those that have invested in Major League Pickleball teams.
According to pickleball lore, the game was invented when, in the mid-1960s, two families in Washington State were searching for a fun activity to entertain their children while on vacation. The group began gathering equipment laying around in a garage such as old ping-pong paddles and a wiffle ball and took advantage of a nearby badminton courts. Its ubiquitous name mirrors the collection of items used to invent the sport with a nod to “the pickle boat” in crew, where oarsmen were chosen from the “leftovers of other boats.”
This is the third pickleball venue in the St. John Properties portfolio, joining the recently-opened The PutAway in I-97 Business Park (Millersville, MD) and the Baltimore Pickleball Club, which is scheduled to be operational at Timonium Exchange later this year.
“There is no denying the rapid growth of pickleball throughout the country. With 18-foot ceiling heights and an adjacent free surface parking lots, our signature flex/R&D buildings are perfectly-suited to support this use,” stated Matt Lenihan, Senior Vice President, Leasing for St. John Properties.