A former roller skating rink is in line to be transformed into a hub for one of the region’s most popular athletic activities: pickleball.
What was once Stardust Skate Center, at 2571 12th St. in Sarasota near Ed Smith Stadium, is expected to become the Sarasota Pickleball Academy. Brian McCarthy of Starboard Tack LLC, a Sarasota-based commercial real estate development firm, is leading the effort.
McCarthy says the project team plans to repurpose the existing 24,000-square-foot space and install 12 pickleball courts on the property. “Our objective really is to create the first indoor pickleball facility totally devoted to pickleball — in Florida, certainly, and maybe one of two in the country,” he says.
Loyd Robbins, president and principal broker at Harry E. Robbins Associates Inc., had marketed the Stardust facility to a variety of potential users prior to the pickleball plan, including electrical, plumbing and air conditioning supply companies. He fielded interest from people who wanted to use the space for a furniture store, fitness center, baseball training facility, craft brewery, family entertainment venue, church and more.
McCarthy, a pickleball player himself, was involved in the Bird Key Yacht Club’s efforts to add pickleball courts to its property. Although the club eventually abandoned the plans, McCarthy thinks there’s strong interest in additional pickleball facilities in the Sarasota area, particularly indoor courts. “All of the courts here in Sarasota are outdoor courts,” McCarthy says. “If you stay through a summer here, you know the weather can get difficult in the daytime.”
Fans of the game have called pickleball the fastest-growing sport in the country. Local governments in the region have recently responded to resident demand for more courts. In 2018, Manatee County discussed building a 36-court pickleball complex at Lakewood Ranch's Premier Sports Campus and Park. On Longboat Key, officials have sought a strategy for adding public pickleball courts throughout 2019. In October, Sarasota County hosted a workshop regarding improvements at Englewood Sports Complex that could include lighted pickleball courts.
McCarthy says the project team aims to start construction in spring 2020 and complete work by fall 2020. In addition to pickleball courts, plans for the building include a pro shop and a coffee and juice bar.