Fenway Park will transform itself into a temporary pickleball mecca this summer in a mash-up of the newest and oldest national pastimes.
A dozen pickleball courts will be spread out along the outfield periphery of the historic baseball stadium for a few days during one of the lulls in the Red Sox’ home schedule, with court time available for rent to the general public and private companies.
The dates, rates, and other details, including a professional players component, will be announced later this month.
Fenway Park and the San Francisco Giants’ Oracle Park were announced as the first two hosts of the inaugural Ballpark Festival Series by the newly formed group Pickleball4America.
In addition to offering dedicated pickleball court space to the Greater Boston area, the group is also hoping to re-create the “part-Coachella, part Jimmy Buffett concert” vibe of the US Open Pickleball Championships, the largest pickleball event in the country, taking place April 15-22 in Naples, Fla.
While waiting for court time or icing down after, pickleball players will have an array of food, beverage, and live music options to choose from.
“We just don’t want people to come and play, we want them to come and hang out for a while to take it all in,” said Mike Dee, chairman of Pickleball4America, who is also an executive at Audacy and former COO of the Red Sox.
With three professional tours jostling for attention from sponsors and the media, Pickleball4America is focused on amateur recreational pickleball players, a multi-generational group estimated to number between 5 million and 36 million people.
Pickleball4America has also merged with the US Open Pickleball Championships.
Fenway Sports Management, the marketing and sponsorship arm of Fenway Sports Group, the parent company of the Red Sox, Liverpool Football Club, and most of NESN, is working with the group on logistics and selling national sponsorships.
“People will have the opportunity to play and have access to hospitality, and there will likely be some sort of a commemorative gift they will receive as well,” said Mark Lev, president of FSM. “We do think Pickleball for America’s strategy, which is less about the professionals and leagues and more about the participants, is a winning strategy, because it’s such a broad swath of people. It’s their intention to sort of be the central hub for the amateur pickleball player.”
Dee said that the playing surface, similar to that found on any current tennis-like hard court, will rest on the same flooring used for ballpark and stadium concerts.
Among the investors in the initial round of Pickleball4America’s funding are Boston Seed Capital, Drive by DraftKings, and Adam, Larry, and Jared Franklin of Stoughton-based Franklin Sports.
“Pickleball allows people to cater to their competitive spirit, if you will, and it’s a great source of exercise,” said Lev. “I think both of those things are very appealing and are reasons to believe that the sport really has exponential growth in front of it.”
Michael Silverman can be reached at email@example.com.