Lucky’s Market hasn’t sold a jar of pickles in Wheat Ridge for more than three years.
But the 35,000-square-foot space at West 38th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard that was home to the Boulder-based natural-foods-focused grocery chain that carried Grillo’s pickle chips and Bubbies Kosher dills until 2020 will soon house a different kind of pickle — Colorado’s largest indoor pickleball complex.
Nascent operator 3rd Shot Pickleball plans to lay out 13 courts inside the empty box store, complete with bar and lounge for après-smacking snacking. The company signed a 10-year lease with building owner Quadrant Properties last week and hopes to open for business Oct. 1.
“It’s a beautiful coincidence,” 3rd Shot co-owner Max Ireland said of the juxtaposition of having a decidedly cursed number of courts in a building emblazoned with the word Lucky’s. “Thirteen fit in there really nicely.”
Ireland, who has worked in hospitality and restaurant management, is teaming up with Adam Kahn, long-time owner of the Meadow Creek Tennis & Fitness Club in Lakewood, to launch 3rd Shot Pickleball. The name, Kahn said, comes from the importance of the third hit of a point — that’s when a player doesn’t need to let the ball bounce and can forge an attack on the opponent.
“The effectiveness of the third shot determines the effectiveness of the point 80% of the time,” he said.
The Lucky’s building turned out to have the perfect dimensions for a pickleball complex, with 25-foot-high ceilings and enough space around support columns for courts. Kahn and Ireland looked at a dozen sites before settling on the shuttered grocer a few months ago.
They are putting nearly a million dollars into the project.
“It’s much harder to find a space for pickleball than you might think,” Kahn said of the sport that has taken the nation by storm in recent years.
But pickleball’s rising popularity has prompted numerous complaints about the noise the hard paddles and plastic balls make when they come together. In March, Centennial temporarily banned the construction of new outdoor pickleball courts near homes in the city so it could study the noise issue.
A few days later, Denver shut down its pickleball courts at Congress Park due to noise complaints. That won’t be an issue for neighbors living near the Lucky’s building, said Steve Art, Wheat Ridge’s economic development manager.
“Having it as an indoor facility will certainly be good for people bothered by pickleball noise,” he said.
The lease on the Lucky’s building, which closed shop in January 2020 after having opened to much fanfare just 18 months earlier, means the end of the three-year mystery about what will occupy a prominent space at one of Wheat Ridge’s main retail centers, The Corners.
“The building has sat empty for several years, so it’s nice to see it get another use,” Art said.
The courts at 3rd Shot will be separated by 10-foot netting to keep players from running into each other chasing down balls. The playing surface — the same type used at the U.S. Open tennis tournament — has an acrylic topcoat that provides grip and consistency for a ball’s bounce, Kahn and Ireland said.
Along with a full bar, there will be mocktails, smoothies and shakes for the young ones. Players will also be able to nosh on pretzels, pizza and chips and salsa.
Ireland said the hours at 3rd Shot Pickleball will likely go from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., with the closing hour on weekends possibly stretched to midnight. There will be memberships and courts set aside for drop-in players, along with clinics, lessons and league play.
The new facility will have competition.
Westminster has the Pickleball Food Pub, which opened in 2022 and features eight indoor courts. Plans have been submitted with Centennial for Camp Pickle, a proposed 70,000-square-foot facility with 14 indoor and outdoor pickleball courts and restaurant and bar seating throughout.
And earlier this month, Kansas City-based Chicken N’ Pickle announced plans to open two pickleball venues in Colorado next year — one in Thornton and one in Parker. Kahn and Ireland tout their local street cred — between them, they’ve lived in Colorado for nearly 50 years — as an asset.
“Even though there are big national chains coming to Denver, we’re very proud of the fact that we are a couple of locals,” Kahn said.
This story was first published by The Denver Post, a BusinessDen news partner.