Racquet Rumblings

In Buzz, December 2022/January 2023 by Lindsey Hyde2 Comments

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Raleigh serves as the ideal test market for a new “tainment” venue.

“Sportstainment,” a new portmanteau (blending sports + entertainment), is gaining rapid popularity—and Raleigh is at the center of it all.

The concept combines the opportunity to both engage in a sport and enjoy a highly social atmosphere coupled with food and bevs. Sound a bit like Drive Shack? Well, as the former CEO of its golf-craze competitor Topgolf, Ken May will tell you there’s
a big difference.

Topgolf—along with places that offer ax throwing, bowling and theater—is actually categorized as “eatertainment” (eat + entertainment). While these venues lead with entertainment and can get a little pricey, sportstainment leads with sports and is much more affordable, according to May. 

“I think it comes down to the number of visits per week,” he explains. “If you lead with entertainment, [people] can’t afford to come two or three times a week, but if you lead with sports, they can afford to come.” 

Using Raleigh as the test market for sportstainment locally is Swing Racquet + Paddle, a first-of-its-kind multiracquet and paddle facility. Slated to open in Raleigh in 2024, the highly anticipated 45-acre flagship campus will include 24 pickleball courts, 29 tennis courts (clay and hard), 16 padel courts, 4 beach tennis/volleyball courts and pingpong tables. 

“My partner and founder, Rob [Autry], and I both call Raleigh home,” says Swing President and partner Jason DeGroff. “We love this community and want to continue to see it flourish by creating a destination that attracts visitors to Raleigh with local, regional, national and international events across multiple sports.”

For those unfamiliar with the sport, serving as a mix between tennis and squash, padel (pronounced puh-del) started in Mexico in 1969, and, according to May—who joined the Swing advisory board in February—is now the fastest-growing sport in the world… though it hasn’t gained much attention in the U.S.—yet. 

While May says Swing will likely increase padel’s popularity, it’s the recent surge of pickleball that’s driving both Swing and the idea behind sportstainment. 

“I don’t know that in my lifetime I’ve seen a sport explode like this sport has,” says May. “Yes, it’s the millennials who are playing it, but the fastest growth is with people probably older than 40, all the way up to 70.”

To complete the -tainment aspect of Swing, folks will also have access to retail, a main restaurant and bar, event and lounge areas, walking trails, and social spaces that resemble terraces where they can simply hang out and relax. 

“Our food’s going to be so good that I think people might want to just come there for food on a date night,” says May. In addition to walk-ins for food and beverage and court time, Swing will also offer memberships for frequent players.

Thanks to Raleigh’s massive concentration of active tennis and pickleball players, the City of Oaks was a no-brainer for the first Swing location, according to May. “There is no place in America we considered other than Raleigh for this flagship location,” he says. A swing and a score.

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