Yorktown Heights, New York: Transform a Supermarket into a Pickleball Center?

Geoffrey Jagdfeld, the director of tennis at Solaris Sports Club in Yorktown, discusses pickleball and his idea to open up a pickleball center.Watch the Interview

YORKTOWN (, Rockland/Westchester Journal News):

Would a growing sport that mixes tennis, badminton and ping-pong be a good re-use of the former Food Emporium?

Geoffrey A. Jagdfeld, tennis director at nearby Solaris Sports Club, thinks so. He’s looking for investors for his idea to turn the dormant-for-a-decade former grocery store into indoor pickleball courts.

The 45,000-square-foot space, in the Yorktown Green Shopping Center on Downing Drive, could also include a cafe or restaurant and possibly other physical activities, he said. 

“Pickleball is a hot sport, the fastest-growing racket sport in the country,” Jagdfeld said.

Rosalba Pesce of Yorktown returns the ball while playing pickleball at Solaris Sports Club in Yorktown Jan. 29 2019. Pickleball is a racquet sport that combines parts of tennis, badminton and ping pong. (Photo: Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

But there’s been no formal proposal. Oster Properties, which owns the shopping center, has indicated in the past that it’s in negotiations with a food establishment for the former Food Emporium space, Town Supervisor Ilan GIlbert said. 

Pickleball is popping up in around Westchester and Rockland, including in Bedford, Mamaroneck and Nyack, and in Connecticut. Yorktown’s new outdoor Granite Knolls multi-sports complex, slated to open this spring, will include some pickleball as well.

Invented in the 1960s near Seattle, pickleball is easier to learn and more affordable than tennis and some other sports, Jagdfeld said.

Still, expert pickleball players bring technique and finesse.

“Tennis can be a really assertive game where you try to end points quickly, and a bigger, stronger person might prevail,” Jagdfeld said. “Whereas, in pickleball, the wiser player might prevail. They understand where they need to hit the ball and why and they need to stay more patient.”

Lou Barlanti of Somers returns the ball to Geoffrey Jagdfeld, the director of tennis, during a pickleball lesson at Solaris Sports Club in Yorktown Jan. 29 2019. Pickleball is a racquet sport that combines parts of tennis, badminton and ping pong. (Photo: Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

At Solaris Sports Club, a tennis or basketball court is used for pickleball when scheduling permits, with markers put down to create the smaller space.

On a recent afternoon at Solaris, he held an impromptu game to demonstrate, as two women faced two others — like doubles in tennis.

The orb they hit with paddle-like rackets is similar to a Wiffle ball. It’s served underhand, unlike tennis’s overhand delivery. A pickleball court is 44 feet by 20 feet, compared to 78 feet by 36 feet for tennis, so the game is played in close quarters with less ground to cover.

“So, I’ll feed the ball … and we’ll start rallying back and forth,” Jagdfeld said to one of the players, Cecilia Soprano of Katonah.

There is a space in the pickleball court where volleys, common in tennis, are not allowed. The game uses badminton’s scoring system.

Soprano said pickleball is “huge in Florida.”

A pickleball paddle and wiffle ball at Solaris Sports Club in Yorktown Jan. 29 2019. Pickleball is a racquet sport that combines parts of tennis, badminton and ping pong. (Photo: Tania Savayan/The Journal News)

A growing number of municipal planners prioritize downtown developments that offer experiences, like games and entertainment, or restaurants, to combat the competition from online shopping.

“Businesses that will succeed going forward now are the things that you can’t achieve on the Internet or achieve through an app,” said Gilbert.

In Yorktown, Goldfish Swim School recently opened its first Westchester location in the Triangle Shopping Center. Mount Kisco officials last year approved zoning to allow more experiential businesses at the 333 N. Bedford Road commercial complex that includes go-karting.

And Peekskill has the Spins Hudson-Factoria at Charles Point entertainment and restaurant complex, which offers a ropes course, Laser Tag, arcade games, bocce and shuffleboard.

Leave a Comment