Pickleball is blowing up in D.C. right now, and new venue Kraken is ready to handle the craze.
Pickleball, a hybrid of a trio of paddle sports — badminton, ping-pong and tennis — is the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association, with more than 8.9 million people participating in the sport.
And here in Washington, D.C., more people are playing than ever before.
Kraken, a new 70,000 square-foot complex with 14 pickleball courts, a beer garden, event stage and the District’s only indoor roller skating rink, is set to open this spring in MRP Realty’s development in Edgewood.
“It’s designed to be multi-generational,” says Anna Valero, president of Pirate Ventures, the company behind the Kraken project. “Pickleball and roller skating are both sports that have a broad appeal, so seniors and youth alike play and enjoy them. We like to create organic ways for the community to gather and engage in activity together.”
The company, which is also behind Kraken Axes and Rage and Hook Hall, has seen interest in pickleball grow in recent years and felt it was the perfect time to open a complex to take advantage of the craze.
“It’s a sport that has grown, but the facilities have not been able to meet the demand,” Valero says. “What we want to be able to do is provide space for both new and seasoned players, allowing them to have the opportunity to play with people of their same skill level.”
With that in mind, Kraken will serve both recreation players and league play.
“When we build our venues, we do so to be community gathering spots,” Valero says. “We know there’s a need in the community for space for parents to be able to safely bring their kids to do activities and we know there is a demand.”
There’s even a professional pickleball team in the District, the aptly named D.C. Pickleball Team, which is part of the 24-team Major League Pickleball league.
“The league is only 16 months into its existence, and there’s a blank canvas, if you will, to paint the overall potential vision for community impact, the players and even the infrastructure,” says Adam Behnke, chief operating officer of the D.C. Pickleball Team. “We’re hoping that the team will help grow the sport in the District and the surrounding areas.”
The D.C. team consists of top pickleball players Sam Querrey, Stefan Auvergne, Shelby Bates and Monica Paolicelli.
Beginning March 27, EDENS, in partnership with DC Fray, will host Cosmic Pickleball for the first time at Dock5 in Union Market. Players ages 21 and over with all skill levels are welcome.
“Our open spaces and event venues provide the perfect canvas to bring people together and Cosmic Pickleball is an excellent opportunity for giving people a chance to connect in a playful way,” says Elizabeth K. Harnik, director of events and experiences at EDENS, a national retail real estate developer that owns and operates Union Market District.
Martin Espinoza, president of United Fray, notes the leagues will run Monday and Tuesday nights and will take place just above Union Market. Participants and visitors can treat themselves to more than 35 food and drink vendors, with Hi-Lawn setting up a pop-up bar to keep drinks flowing as participants show off their pickleball skills.
“People can be spectators, enjoy other people’s matches and not just come to play the sport,” he says. “But of course, they can play and go upstairs for a post-game drink as well.”
Being “cosmic,” everything is fluorescent (the line, paddles, league shirts) and there’s a black light to make body paint and glow sticks shine. It will all come together to create a fun atmosphere overall.
You can register in one of three ways: as an individual, as a team or as a group. You’ll be combined with others to form a team. To register for Cosmic Pickleball, visit dcfray.com.
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