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Who Are the Surprising New Occupants of Empty Big-Box Stores?

Empty big-box stores are being transformed by innovative occupants, from micro-fulfillment centers to community hubs offering education, healthcare, and entertainment. These spaces are adapting to modern needs, breathing new life into once-abandoned structures. Discover who's moving in and how they're reshaping the retail landscape. What could a big-box store near you become? Join the conversation and imagine the possibilities.
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman

Pickleball seems to be everywhere these days. All across the country, America’s fastest-growing sport is attracting players of all ages. Yet pickleball is having some growing pains – most notably noise complaints and a lack of space to play. Such is the popularity of this paddle sport that public parks, recreation areas, and tennis courts are limiting the use of their facilities by pickleball players so that others have the chance to enjoy them, too.

With nearly nine million Americans looking for somewhere to play their new favorite sport, an unlikely solution has begun to emerge. Just as pickleball is growing in popularity, an increasing number of stores in shopping malls are sitting empty and unused as more shoppers move online. From Missouri to New Jersey, empty storefronts that once housed large retailers such as Old Navy, Bed, Bath & Beyond, and Burlington Coat Factory are increasingly finding new lives as homes for pickleball clubs.

Pickleball, anyone?

  • Although pickleball’s popularity has skyrocketed in recent years (growing around 40% between 2019 and 2021), it was actually created in the 1960s in Washington state.

  • Its inventors, Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell, and Barney McCallum found themselves on a badminton court without the right equipment. Nevertheless, they got creative with table tennis paddles and a plastic ball with holes.

  • Pickeball is just as popular on college campuses as it is among older players. This social sport involves less running than tennis, has an easy-to-understand scoring system, is accepting of players of all ages, genders, sizes, and abilities, and allows many people to participate at once.

Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman
Margaret Lipman is a teacher and blogger who frequently writes for WiseGEEK about topics related to personal finance, parenting, health, nutrition, and education. Learn more...

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    • Across the United States, former big-box stores and shopping malls are being repurposed as pickleball courts.
      By: theturquoisetable
      Across the United States, former big-box stores and shopping malls are being repurposed as pickleball courts.