Like most shopping malls around the country, Macon Mall in Macon, GA was experiencing hard times. A new lifestyle center had lured away many of its tenants, while other national tenants had gone bankrupt and gone out of business. Online shopping has become popular during the pandemic and has cut down the flow of shoppers in the mall drastically. The vacancy rate in the mall hovered at 74 %. The final straw was the owner of the mall turning over the mall to the city of Macon.
The city was facing a quandary. What do you do with a shopping mall? The first thing the city did was downsize the mall by demolishing one wing of the mall. In its place, the city will construct a 10,000-seat amphitheater. It already was a needed amenity in the area and would bring traffic back to the mall area. This still left a large vacant area where one of the anchor stores had stood. How could that space be filled?
The answer to that question is to marry a shopping mall with pickleball. Pickleball is the #1 participant sport in the country. Leagues and courts are popping up everywhere. The solution is the 32-court Rhythm and Rally Sports and Event Complex. The 150,000-square-foot facility is the largest indoor pickleball facility in the world. The facility also includes climate-controlled locker rooms, showers, and a pro shop. The city of Macon has seen its white elephant turn into a gold mine.
The new facility is a great hit in the pickleball community. In the first few weeks, it was open, Rhythm and Rally hosted a tournament with more than 6,500 participants. Players came from 24 four states and several foreign countries. A second tournament in January 2024 drew more than 900 participants. The facility has lined up a series of local, regional, and national tournaments throughout 2024. The local community has responded to the new complex just as enthusiastically. Local membership in the complex has skyrocketed, with most of the courts in use around the clock.
The facility has also drawn the attention of government officials in other cities and states, as they all are facing the same issues of abandoned properties. It has spawned the concept of adaptive reuse in malls and other large vacant properties.
In the meantime, Rhythm and Rally Sports and Events Complex expects to generate between $ 3-5 million in revenue in 2024 for the city of Macon.