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Pickleball Courts and Hardware Store May Open in Martinez

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By Jacob Jackson

Martinez, a suburb of Augusta, Georgia, may soon have a new attraction for sports and hardware enthusiasts. A former BI-LO supermarket on Furys Ferry Road is being renovated to accommodate two new tenants: a hardware store and an indoor pickleball facility. The Columbia County Planning Commission is expected to approve the plans at the beginning of the year.

What is Pickleball?

Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton, and table tennis. It is played on a court similar to a tennis court, but smaller, with a net lowered to 34 inches at the center. Players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball, similar to a wiffle ball, over the net. The game can be played in singles or doubles, and the rules are simple and easy to learn.

Pickleball is one of the fastest-growing sports in America, with more than 36 million players in 2022, according to the Association of Pickleball Professionals. The sport is popular among people of all ages and skill levels, as it is fun, social, and low-impact. Pickleball has also attracted the attention and investment of some famous athletes, such as LeBron James, Tom Brady, Kevin Durant, and Patrick Mahomes, who have bought stakes in professional pickleball teams.

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Who are the New Tenants?

The new tenants of the former BI-LO space are Furys Ferry Hardware and Dink’d Pickleball. Furys Ferry Hardware is a locally owned store that will be part of the Do It Best Retail Stores cooperative, which is a network of independent hardware and building materials retailers based in Indiana. The store will occupy 21,146 square feet of the space and offer a variety of products and services for home improvement and DIY projects.

Dink’d Pickleball is a venture by Dr. Troy Akers, a local physician and pickleball enthusiast. He plans to transform 24,702 square feet of the space into a state-of-the-art pickleball facility, with 10 courts, a café, and a lounge area. The facility will cater to both recreational and competitive players, as well as host tournaments, clinics, and social events. Akers said that pickleball is more than just a sport, but a way to build community and have fun.

What are the Benefits for the Area?

The developers of the project hope that the new businesses will bring more foot traffic and revenue to the area and the county as a whole. They also hope that the project will revitalize the shopping center and the surrounding area, which have seen some vacant and underutilized spaces in recent years. Charles Cates, the owner of Furys Ferry Hardware, said that he was approached by Akers with the pickleball idea and thought it was a great idea, as it would create synergy and complementarity between the two businesses. He said that the hardware store and the pickleball facility will have separate entrances, but share a large parking lot, which should accommodate the expected demand.

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The project has also received positive feedback from some local residents and officials, who see it as a welcome addition to the community. Pickleball is a popular activity in the Central Savannah River Area (CSRA), with several outdoor courts available in public parks and recreation centers. However, an indoor facility would offer more convenience and comfort, especially during the hot and humid summers or the cold and rainy winters. Moreover, the hardware store would provide another option for customers who need tools, materials, or advice for their home projects.

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The project is still awaiting the final approval from the Columbia County Planning Commission, which is scheduled to consider the request on Jan. 2, 2024. If approved, the developers hope to start the renovation work soon and open the businesses by the spring or summer of 2024.

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