Sarasota resident Brian McCarthy is working to establish an indoor pickleball club at the 12th Avenue building that housed Stardust Skate Center.
An iconic former Sarasota roller skating rink is in line to get transformed into a hub for one of the region’s most popular athletic activities.
A sign outside of the Stardust Skate Center building at 2571 12th St. advertises a new tenant is coming to the property: the Sarasota Pickleball Academy.
The project is being led by Brian McCarthy of Starboard Tack LLC, a Sarasota-based commercial real estate development firm. McCarthy said the project team plans to repurpose the existing 24,000-square-foot former roller rink and install 12 pickleball courts on the property.
“Our objective really is to create the first indoor pickleball facility totally devoted to pickleball — in Florida, certainly, and maybe one of two in the country,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy, a pickleball player, was previously involved in the Bird Key Yacht Club’s efforts to add pickleball courts to its property. Although the yacht club eventually abandoned those plans, McCarthy believes there is strong interest in additional pickleball facilities in the Sarasota area, particularly indoor courts.
“All of the courts here in Sarasota are outdoor courts,” McCarthy said. “If you stay through a summer here, you know the weather can get difficult in the daytime.”
Fans of the game call pickleball the fastest-growing sport in the country, and local governments in the region have recently responded to resident demand for more courts. In 2018, Manatee County discussed building a 36-court pickleball complex at Lakewood Ranch's Premier Sports Campus and Park. On Longboat Key, officials have sought a strategy for adding public pickeball courts throughout 2019. In October, Sarasota County hosted a workshop regarding improvements at Englewood Sports Complex that could include lighted pickleball courts.
McCarthy said the project team hoped to begin construction in spring 2020 and complete work by fall 2020. In addition to the pickleball courts, the plan for the building includes a pro shop, a coffee and juice bar and “a generous area for socializing,” according to a release.
The Sarasota Pickleball Academy website advertises opportunities for memberships, but McCarthy said the facility will also be open to non-members. McCarthy said he intended for the club to host leagues, national tournaments, clinics and training sessions. He hoped the academy would attract hardcore pickleball players and newcomers alike.
“For those who haven’t been introduced to the sport, we’ll introduce them,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy also expressed optimism the project could help create more activity near Ed Smith Stadium. He cited the work of the Limelight District, a recently established merchant group in the area, and said he saw potential to draw more people to that part of the city.
“I hope that maybe we will provide some interest to continue that development,” McCarthy said.