Brier Creek project adds more pickleball, seeks public help
An effort to put a major tennis facility in Raleigh’s Brier Creek has grown in scope — and added more courts for the fast-growing sport of pickleball.
The project, led by Rob Autry and partner Jason DeGroff, will now include 34 tennis courts and 29 pickleball courts in addition to expanded facilities, with a 30,000-square-foot fitness facility and a 10,000-square-foot gymnasium.
The project had earlier called for 51 tennis courts and a significantly smaller number of pickleball courts. But Autry said the explosive growth of pickleball, a paddle sport played with a wiffle ball, drove the shift, especially as pickleball reels in a younger demographic. To reflect the switch, the project is now called Swing Racquet + Paddle.
“The more research we did, the sheer number of pickleball players is just impressive,” he says.
And Autry and DeGroff noted that with 34 tennis courts, including one that could seat up to 3,000 spectators, the facility could still team with the Cary Tennis Center (32 courts) and Raleigh’s Millbrook Exchange Park (23) and have plenty of courts for major U.S. Tennis Association events and even NCAA events. USTA league play has been booming, and towns such as Asheville, Wilmington, Winston-Salem and Durham have added to their tourist base by attracting USTA state and regional championships, and those events are played at multiple facilities.
The goal for Swing is to have up to 6,000 members, with the facilities also available to the public. So a nonmember, for example, could go online, register for a tennis court, and then pay a fee.
The group has a 50-year lease from the city for the 48 acres. Autry originally expected the project to cost $25 million but now says the total build-out will be $65 million to $70 million. He said the group will apply for support from Wake County Interlocal Agreement funds, which come from hotel and food taxes.
“It’s become a much broader economic engine,” Autry says. The goal is to begin construction this year and open in early 2022.