Kihei pickleball facility on way to reality
Ten-court complex to also include health, fitness facilities
KIHEI — Mark and Nancy Beach’s longtime dream is in the midst of developing. Makana Ale and Renee Zaima have jumped on board to help.
The demand for the rapidly growing game of pickleball has taken off around the nation and Maui is no different. The recent Maui Pukaball Tournament at Wailea Tennis Club drew 363 competitors, for example.
The Beaches, Ale and Zaima are the founding foursome of Aloha Pickleball. They have acquired a three-acre parcel in the Maui Research and Technology Park, adjacent to Maui Brewing Company.
Their goal is that in two years, a 10-court facility — four indoor and six outdoor — with health and fitness facilities will open to the public.
“Phase one of our plan includes 10 pickleball courts … the indoor courts will be open during the day, but we can close the large garage doors, at night or in the summer, and those indoor courts will be air conditioned,” Mark Beach said Friday. “Then we have another 18,000 square feet of building that will go up three stories. The top story will be our health center, where we’ll have chiropractor, physical therapy, massage, acupuncture, those type of disciplines.
“The second level will be an approximately 6,000 square state-of-the-art fitness center and then on the first floor will be our pro shop for pickleball, the welcome area, restrooms, all those types of facilities.”
The facility will be one of the few of its kind in the nation, but all four of the founders are excited.
The Beaches, longtime residents of Washington state, have had a home on Maui for 18 years and also had a home in Bend, Ore., for eight years until 2020, when the arrival of a grandchild sparked them to sell the Central Oregon home.
They have gotten advice on their new venture from Werner Zhender, who owns a similar facility in Bend.
“The hotbeds of pickleball are Florida, Arizona, Texas,” Mark Beach said. “Bend, Oregon, has two indoor facilities and Bend is very similar to Maui in terms of population.”
Nancy Beach added, “the amount of tourists that they draw (in Bend) is very, interestingly similar.”
“So we looked at those numbers and of course, Bend, the facilities in Bend play to the indoor (crowd), but there are so many outdoor courts in Bend as well,” Mark Beach said. “I believe it’s been four or five years that the U.S. senior games have been held in Bend and they’ve had as many as 1,200 people in the pickleball tournament for the senior games.”
The event held earlier this month in Wailea is evidence to the Aloha Pickleball foursome that the game can support their facility.
In fact, in talking points they have developed for the business, they say that their facility will not even meet the total demand on the island.
They are committed to the plan, having paid $4.5 million for their land parcel. They expect total costs to reach $10 million.
“It’s really remarkable and it is just fun to see it grow here, but there is a lack of facilities,” Mark Beach said. “Now, Hawaii presents some large challenges — the cost of land and the right land and the cost to build.
“So, I understand even the county’s challenges to bring more courts to the public because you have to identify the land, you have the construction costs, also the amenities, the facilties, the restrooms, all those things are a large challenge.”
Mark Beach added, “this will help create more playing opportunities and give us a world-class facility that I think Maui and Hawaii can be very proud of.”
Mark Beach noted that there are currently two professional circuits playing the sport in North America and he anticipates the sport will be in the Olympics someday. The Aloha Pickleball facility will be able to hold national-level tournaments, he said.
“Absolutely, absolutely, we think we’ll be quite a draw,” he said. “Phase two of this will be adding an additional five courts. So, our goal is to have 15 courts.”
Ale grew up on the Valley Isle and played football at Maui High School and Snow College in Utah. He has been playing pickleball for three years and it has helped him go from 420 pounds to less than 300, he said.
He met the Beaches as a security guard in their neighborhood.
“In the past three years pickleball on Maui has grown so much,” Ale said. “When I started playing pickleball I could count on both hands how many kamaaina, local people, would show up to play. There was only a handful of us, the majority was tourists.”
Zaima’s children played tennis at Baldwin High School and she was always into that court sport until discovering pickleball three years ago.
“I started playing pickleball when the County of Maui offered free lessons at War Memorial,” she said. “I took lessons … and I got hooked. Makana and I became friends through pickleball. You know, I’m an addict. I will travel all over the island to find a court.”
Ale sees the sport in the Maui Interscholastic League someday. Mark Beach said the spot they chose being close to Kihei Charter School and the public Kihei high school that is scheduled to open in the next few years was completely by design.
The facility will use reconstituted water and solar power for nearly all of its needs.
“You see all the pickleball courts here now and it’s just all kamaaina,” Ale said. “It’s just incredible how fast the sport has grown, (people) waiting in line and especially the youth — especially growing up on Maui, being from Maui — seeing how it affects the community.
“My people, knowing my friends, who never have played pickleball ever, are now playing pickleball. And their children are playing pickleball, doing it as a family activity. … I can say it’s helped me, a bunch.”
The business plan includes a limited number of private memberships, offering drop-in players, lessons, clinics, ratings — the sport has ratings similar to tennis — and training with certified teaching professionals.
“We will offer round-robin play, leagues, tournaments for youth and seniors,” Mark Beach said. “The barriers are low, all you need are some court space, court shoes, a paddle and a ball. Unlike many sports, the learning curve is very short. Although, as you gain experience you realize the skills, strategies and nuances of the game are endless.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org