Austin has a pickleball shortage. I know that sounds hard to believe, but stay with me — Austin also has too much parking. The rise of pickleball as the fastest-growing sport in America causing increased crowds at local pickleball courts happens to coincide with growing public awareness that overzealous parking requirements have screwed up the urban design of cities all over the country, with an increasing number of cities including Austin now on track to abolish minimum parking mandates citywide.
These issues would remain mostly unrelated if it weren’t for Austin Pickle Ranch, a new pickleball facility opening next week at the parking garage of the Hartland Plaza office complex west of downtown at 1717 West Sixth Street. The project converts the underused top level of the garage structure with eight pickleball courts open for reservation by the public, also adding a small shaded area for spectators, selling soft drinks and snacks, and utilizing the site’s existing restrooms.
It’s the first facility of its kind in the city, and a big part of the plan’s appeal is its extreme simplicity — this design could work with almost any garage structure with a flat open-air slab at roof level, which describes a large number of parking facilities around Austin. It’s that simplicity that likely drove Austin Pickle Ranch founders Tim Klitch and Daniel Keelan, respective local veterans of the commercial banking and tech industries, to pursue the parking garage site for their first project.
You may recall that Austin Pickle Ranch was first announced in 2021 as a 32-court facility planned on Bluff Springs Road in Southeast Austin, set to become the largest pickleball venue in the state, but that version of the project is now on hold. Anyway, we prefer the parking garage site for illustrating how easy it is to reclaim these underutilized spaces for vibrant and active uses with only a few minor design changes — until all new parking structures are designed to be easily retrofitted for uses like housing, we would like to see the business model of Austin Pickle Ranch replicated, perhaps even with other interesting sports like bike polo, atop parking structures all over town. The facility marks its grand opening next month, on Sunday, October 1.