RECS is one of the most well known clubs in Oregon. Hosting the 2023 Oregon Cup, which this year falls on September 30th, has gained RECS an elite class of their own. From premium cushioned rubber courts to food and drink at the pro shop, RECS makes being a member of a pickleball club hard to resist. We had a chance to ask Kevin Richards, an instructor at RECS, a few questions about their club and what it takes to be successful in the pickleball club space.
Pickleball Club Mag: Tell me a little about RECS.
Kevin Richards: RECS stands for Recreate, Exercise, Compete, Socialize. I came up with the concept in 2016 (here’s a video I made and posted in 2017 in fact — note the question at the end about imagining dedicated indoor pickleball facilities). At that time, not nearly as many people knew about pickleball, so it was just going to be one of the sports that we’d offer. But due to the wild ascension of the sport, it is more than just our flagship sport, it’s close to 100% of the activity in our building. We still occasionally host local soccer clubs or teams for soccer/tennis or corporate events with cornhole, and I do have plans for these and other sports and games at our future locations.
PCM: How did you get your start in the pickleball business?
KR: I came up with the RECS concept, but knew that I needed to learn more about the pickleball business, meet more people involved in it, and hopefully raise some funds to open a facility. I became aware, through a couple players in our local pickleball club, that the sport needed a math-based ratings system. A developer friend and I launched pickleballratings.com and processed player ratings for clubs around the U.S. and Canada before processing the first iteration of the UTPR. A lot of the stuff that DUPR is trying to execute now we, in fact, had on a whiteboard six years ago. Having said that, I’m not convinced that doubles ratings will ever work, and I’m happy that I’m able to focus on what I’m truly passionate about — building community and promoting individual wellness through a social sporting experience.
PCM: Do you cater to specific skill levels or players?
KR: With 9 dedicated cushion courts available 15 hours a day, 7 days a week, we are able to cater to all ages and skill levels. We offer an Intro to Pickleball a couple times a week, and we have pros playing in MLP and PPA that teach and train at our club, and all levels in-between.
PCM: Can you tell me a little bit about your facility?
KR: Our 22,000 square foot building is just on the outskirts of Portland proper, about 15 minutes from downtown. The building itself was used as an indoor soccer facility prior to us moving in. It is a clear span building, meaning that there are no columns, which is critical. The ceilings are close to 30′ feet as well, and the players love this. We put down premium cushioned rubber courts, which the players love. It’s so much more forgiving on the body, and even on the nicest days we have a loyal membership that prefers to play at our place. We also have a Player’s Lounge and Pro Shop, where we sell food and beverages as well as the best paddles and equipment on the market. The lounge TV almost always has pickleball on.
PCM: What is the most popular format/league at your club?
KR: Our “Win Up, Lose Down” on Sunday nights pretty much always fills with 18 teams. In this format, games are 12 minutes long, and the winners move and the losers move down. You sign up and stay with your partner, so teams that are training for tournaments especially appreciate this event. Our daily round robins are almost always full as well. Lately, we’re getting a lot of traction with “Challenge the Pros”, in which 4.0+ players get a chance to take on some of the local pros and earn their registration fee back if they manage to win a game (which rarely happens). We also just launched Individual Flex Leagues, and these are going to be very popular. We’ll be rolling out more league options as well.
PCM: It looks like you are hosting the 2023 Oregon Cup. Can you tell me about this tournament?
KR: The Men’s Oregon Cup on Saturday 9/30 features four teams of 8 players each, and each team has at least one senior player. Each team has a captain, and they drafted the players. These are basically the best 32 men’s players in the state of Oregon. They will compete in a tournament using the MLP format. 3 courts will be in action at all times throughout the day, and spectators will be able to watch up close what pickleball at this level looks like. We’ll also have a gallery of sponsors and vendors there to showcase their products and services. The Oregon Cup is on its way to becoming a very popular annual event, both on the men’s and women’s side.
PCM: What does a pickleball club need to focus on to be a great tournament host?
KR: Hospitality is key, and that includes overdoing it on communication. You need to make sure you’re clear in setting expectations, guidelines, and directions. People don’t like to be confused or surprised, so it’s always better to be over the top when communicating every last bit of information.
PCM: What advice would you give an up and coming pickleball club owner?
KR: It’s likely that in order to be profitable, you really need to have multiple revenue streams, beyond just court or membership fees.
PCM: Is there anything else you’d like to add?
KR: We will be launching a podcast soon called “Pickleball: Fountain of Youth”, hosted by Pickleball Hall of Famer Steve Paranto. Stay tuned!