Life Time Is Still Doubling Down on Pickleball
Just a few steps away from its Chanhassen headquarters, fitness giant Life Time is building its first ground-up, pickleball-dedicated facility in the United States. The new pickleball club, which broke ground Tuesday, is part of a plan to make Life Time a “premier provider” of pickleball. By the end of the year, the company plans to have a total of 700 dedicated pickleball courts.
To be sure, this isn’t Life Time’s first dedicated pickleball facility; that distinction belongs to the company’s pickleball-only club in Bloomington, which opened in early 2022. In total, Life Time operates more than 60 permanent pickleball courts across 12 of its Minnesota clubs and nearly 600 across the country. But company execs touted the Chanhassen facility as the first one being built from the ground up.
The Chanhassen pickleball club will feature eight indoor and seven outdoor courts, along with a viewing area, bar, and lounge. Life Time execs said the planning and building process for the 25,000-square-foot facility has been a quick one since it’s being built on a parking lot already owned by the company. The plan is to have the building open for pickleball players in the next four to five months.
Life Time founder, chairman, and CEO Bahram Akradi said it was a “no brainer” to establish a pickleball club in Chanhassen. In a city that also serves as Life Time’s HQ, the company was already familiar with local ordinances and had excess land.
The Chanhassen club will serve as a template of sorts for Life Time’s future pickleball facilities. Akradi said the company plans to learn from the process to help build new ones faster and more efficiently.
“The objective and the goal is for when people think pickleball the first thing they should think about is Life Time,” Akradi said. Life Time plans to convert about $500 million worth of existing assets — things like excess land or old basketball courts — into pickleball courts, he noted. In some cases, it’s a “quick-turn” project since much of the infrastructure is already built.
He added: “Every week we are looking at other opportunities for Life Time to expand our pickleball footprint in existing facilities, existing land and new. It’s a combination of both grabbing new opportunities and converting existing projects.” For example, Life Time plans to add another four to eight courts to its St. Louis Park location.
Chanhassen mayor Elise Ryan affirmed that the city’s partnership with Life Time is a strong one. “We have always been proud to have the [Life Time] headquarters here in Chanhassen. They have the land and they know they have avid pickleball fans,” she said. “Having a place dedicated to pickleball will bring a lot of our community together.”
Life Time has established partnerships with Major League Pickleball (MLP) and the Professional Pickleball Association (PPA) and has launched its own tournament series, The Pickleball Classic, along with other events, training, leagues, and play, according to the company. Later this fall, it will spearhead new programming for juniors.
“Nobody has Life Time’s scale in sports and athletics in order to have been making this move. We were the only one uniquely positioned to do it,” Akradi said.
Like many other fitness industry players, Life Time has been struggling to retain relevance in a world changed by Covid. In 2022, the company reported a net loss of $1.7 million, and in 2021, a net loss of $580 million. Life Time has made improvements this year, though, logging profit of $27.5 million and $17 million in the first two quarters of 2023, respectively. Given its large investments in pickleball facilities, the company evidently sees the sport as one way to claim dominance.