While many outside the pickleball world may not have heard of Macon, Georgia, this city is quickly rising to be one of the top pickleball destinations in the state. Tattnall Pickleball Center, which boasts 26 courts and hosts large tournaments, is already one of the best pickleball facilities in the country. However, the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority has set into motion plans for Macon to increase its capacity to host even more pickleball tourists with the conversion of the Macon Mall into a large indoor pickleball facility.
Although the Urban Development Authority did not initially know what they were going to do with the mall when they successfully negotiated the donation of nearly two-thirds of the mall property, they soon realized that “pickleball would be an excellent reuse of one of the anchor stores… [and would] inject new life into a corridor that became disinvested in recent decades,” says Alex Morrison, the Executive Director for the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority. Not only will this massive pickleball facility generate new energy to the area overall, it will also help local, long-time business owners and homeowners “who have seen their equity dissipate through no fault of their own.” The Urban Development Authority is excited about what the mall conversion project will do for both pickleball players and non-pickleball players alike.
Despite the fact that Tattnall Pickleball Center is already a large pickleball complex, Morrison, an avid pickleball player himself, knows the capacity for pickleball in Macon is higher than Tattnall can currently support. Tattnall’s courts are “often completely full on weeknights and bursting with tournaments when the weather permits.” The indoor pickleball facility in the Macon Mall, which is yet to be named, will offer Macon residents and pickleball tourists from around the county year round play and put the sport on a higher plane for those interested. Additionally, the Macon Mall facility will have longer hours for members, creating additional value for those who chose to become a member. Morrison commented, “the growth of pickleball in Macon has been incredible and we believe this facility can make the sport more interesting and accessible.”
The indoor pickleball facility at the Macon Mall will feature 32 dedicated pickleball courts, a pro shop, and concessions. Further, the project team is exploring options to include a bar/restaurant at the facility as well. Their goal is for this space to be easily converted for other events as they anticipate tournaments having live music and other activities in addition to pickleball. On top of the pickleball portion of the mall conversion, the new Macon Mall will also have municipal offices, courtrooms, a library annex, and a 12,000 capacity amphitheater, bringing even more life and activity to the area.
The Urban Development Authority is particularly excited about this project as “something close to [their] hearts is the fact that pickleball has the ability to reach across…many demographics. Everyone who tries it loves it and it is an incredibly accessible sport.” They firmly believe the Macon Mall pickleball facility will be a primary gathering spot within the community that will allow them to reach new population groups and encourage them to experience the game and meet new people. Further, they are excited about the opportunities for youth pickleball programming and bringing that to the Macon area.
To celebrate its opening, currently planned for mid-november 2023, the Macon Mall pickleball facility will host a tournament as the grand opening. Additionally, they have signed on with USA Pickleball and plan to host its regional indoor tournament in January 2024. They are aiming to host at least one tournament per month, with four major tournaments at the facility per year. There is no doubt the Macon Mall pickleball facility plans to be a happening place in the pickleball community in the years to come.