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Life Time Opens Indoor Pickleball Nirvana in Midtown Manhattan

by Andrew Cohen on

Pickleball takes a bite out of the Big Apple.

Life Time’s newest 33,000 square-foot pickleball space in Manhattan is sandwiched between two iconic New York City landmarks: Madison Square Garden and Penn Station.

The fitness chain’s seven-court indoor location opens April 15 at Penn 1, a midtown Manhattan skyscraper whose tenants include Samsung, Dell, Wells Fargo, Cisco, Hartford Insurance, and Morgan Stanley.

Life Time opened its health club at Penn 1 last September through its lease with Vornado Realty Trust. Its midtown pickleball play targets both corporate tenants and the millions of annual Penn Station commuters passing through America’s busiest train station. 

"Our internal findings show about half of the business is right here inside of the tower, and then the other half are just commuters given the hundreds of thousands of people that come in and out Penn on a daily basis," Ryan Brister, VP of Club Operations at Life Time, told The Dink. "We've had companies already inquire about renting out one court or all seven courts for select times. We have a couple of smaller companies that work inside of MSG that have their corporate membership set up already."

New York Has an Expensive Pickleball Problem
New York needs 3,558 courts state-wide, at a cost of $124.5 million, to keep up with demand over the next 5-7 years, according to new study.

Outside of subsidized corporate packages, the individual starting price to access the health club and pickleball courts at Penn 1 is $329 per month through Life Time’s Premier membership. The Premier membership also grants access to the Life Time Sky on West 42nd street that opened Manhattan’s first two permanent indoor pickleball courts in February 2023.

The Empire State has an expensive pickleball problem. The Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s 2023 report found New York needs to build 3,558 courts at a projected cost of $124.5 million to keep up with pickleball demand across the state over the next 5-7 years. Brister says Life Time needed to deploy a waitlist to manage demand for its new Penn courts.

Life Time, Pickleball, Penn 1, Madison Square Garden, New York City
The new space at the Life Time at Penn 1 boasts seven indoor pickleball courts.

"The demand for pickleball in the greater New York City area, not just Manhattan, far exceeds the supply especially for indoor courts, but even for outdoor courts," Brister said. "I think it was just a beautiful partnership [with Vornado] that's now being formed to bring the fastest growing sport to the center of Manhattan."

Life Time’s entire Penn 1 fitness center spans three floors and 53,000 square-feet, including the seven ground floor pickleball courts and two lounges with beer and wine options. Players can compete in Life Time leagues, tournaments and clinics, as well as open play sessions.

Above Penn Station sits the New York Knicks (NBA) and Rangers (NHL) at MSG, who could become the latest major league pro sports teams to embrace pickleball. Several MLB ballparks hosted events last year and the NHL’s Florida Panthers recently hosted a "Pickleball Night."

"We absolutely will, we established initial contact with both of the pro teams but we don't have anything on the books," Brister said of the Knicks and Rangers. "Multiple companies and teams have contacted us. We have a member of the Yankees who said some of their players that live in the city want to do some activations with us."

Life Time has been a prominent pro pickleball sponsor, hosting events for both the MLP and PPA Tours. Since Life Time announced its goal in 2021 to become the U.S.’s largest operator of indoor pickleball courts, the fitness chain has opened more than 650 pickleball courts across its 170 clubs. Andre Agassi has served as the inaugural chair of Life Time's newly formed Pickleball and Tennis Board since February 2024.

Pickleball’s popularity is altering Life Time’s approach in building its clubs and specifically its basketball offerings. Penn 1 contains only pickleball courts and no basketball, while another Life Time location in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, did the same in 2022. In the space of one full-size basketball court, LifeTime can instead build three pickleball courts.

"Most of our locations now where we’re building ground-up clubs, instead of opening that club with two permanent basketball courts, we are going one basketball court and three pickleball courts," said Natalie Bushaw, Life Time’s VP of PR and Corporate Communications. "So we have the usage of that space go up exponentially throughout the entire day."


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Andrew Cohen

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