‘It’s a buzz’: Macon’s new pickleball palace aims to be a national hot spot for the sport

Macon-Bibb County officials announced the name of the new world's largest indoor pickleball facility, The Rhythm and Rally Sports and Events Center. (Photo Courtesy of Macon-Bibb County)

Credit: Macon-Bibb County

Credit: Macon-Bibb County

Macon-Bibb County officials announced the name of the new world's largest indoor pickleball facility, The Rhythm and Rally Sports and Events Center. (Photo Courtesy of Macon-Bibb County)

This story was originally published by The Telegraph.

Macon’s pickleball palace, a glistening, 32-court, indoor arena for what some might affectionately describe as “tennis on the tiny,” is among the city’s most high-profile and ambitious gambits — one that at least in part aims to help rejuvenate the southwest side’s Eisenhower Parkway corridor.

Bibb County officials on Tuesday announced the name for the courts — the Rhythm & Rally Sports and Events Center — housed on both floors of the long-vacant former Belk department store on the Mercer University Drive side of the Macon Mall.

Macon-Bibb County officials announced the name of the new world's largest indoor pickleball facility, The Rhythm and Rally Sports and Events Center. (Photo Courtesy of Macon-Bibb County)

Credit: Macon-Bibb County

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Credit: Macon-Bibb County

The officials also spoke of their hopes for what they envision as an attraction for locals and out-of-towners alike, generating interest from devotees of the growing and wildly popular sport from far and wide, and also helping spur economic rebirth in a swath of the city largely abandoned by major retailers.

Located pretty much next to an under-construction, 10,000-plus-seat amphitheater, the indoor pickleball venue — deemed the largest of its kind in the world — has been in the works for about two years and is expected to be what one official called “a destination attraction.”

To be sure, a tournament hosted by the Southern Pickle Ball Association in mid-December dubbed the Candy Cane Classic already has nearly 500 entrants. Future competitions may attract in excess of 1,000 players from all over the country, officials say.

Gary Wheat, president and CEO of Visit Macon, said, “You create a place people want to visit (and) you create a place where people want to work, live and move.”

A Florida-based firm, Sports Facilities Companies, has been hired to manage the courts.

One of the company’s vice presidents, Patrick O’Brien, was among the speakers at Tuesday’s news conference.

“This building is going to thrive,” O’Brien said, adding that “we are committed to making this thing as successful as possible.”

He mentioned plans for camps, clinics and instruction for youths.

Macon-Bibb County officials announced the name of the new world's largest indoor pickleball facility, The Rhythm and Rally Sports and Events Center. (Photo Courtesy of Macon-Bibb County)

Credit: Macon-Bibb County

icon to expand image

Credit: Macon-Bibb County

Memberships to play start at $25 a month for people 17 and younger. The cost is $40 for those 18 and up. When the venue opens to the public, admission for non-members will be $5 for half a day of play.

“I can tell you definitively, this is a one-of-a-kind facility. This facility is unmatched in terms of indoor pickleball anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world,” said Evan Eleff, a partner who works for the venue’s management firm.

“The enthusiasm about what’s being built here and what’s coming and what the future will be, it’s a buzz. It’s a buzz across sports, across certainly the pickleball community.”

John Roberts has been named general manager of the facility.

Branding for the venue features a logo with a guitar-like pickleball paddle and a music note dotted with a pickleball.

The theme ties into the musical heritage that Macon’s leaders have latched onto, measures that include the recent unveiling of plans to construct a terminal at Middle Georgia Regional Airport in a shape that resembles a guitar.

With the prospect of new tunes resonating from the pickleball courts in the form of the sport’s telltale plinks, plops and ploops as paddles smack balls, the new venue will furnish music of its own.

As Mayor Lester Miller put it the other day at the end of the news conference, “Prepare to dink.”


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Credit: The Telegraph

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Credit: The Telegraph

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