(L-R) Mark Meredith, Superintendent, Empire Development & Construction; Scott Steele, Principal, Steele Associates; Jamie Roberts; Butch Roberts; Adam Stephen, Project Manager, Steele Associates | Photo by Cascade Business News
54,000 Sq. Ft. Sportsplex Features Pickleball Courts & Trampoline Park
Indoor recreation opportunities in Bend are hitting new heights with the opening of the eagerly-anticipated 18th Street Sportsplex, featuring eight dedicated Pickleball courts and a Trampoline and Adventure Park, spanning four floors in a 54,000 square foot state-of-the-art multi-purpose facility.
The complex, close to the 18th and Empire roundabout, houses the Trampoline & Adventure Park – including a Ninja course, Laser Maze, Gladiator Pit, Octagon climbing structure and more — on the ground floor and eight courts on the third floor as part of the Pickleball Zone, complete with pro shop, players’ lounge, fourth floor viewing area and Jumping Pickle Café, featuring 14 beers on tap.
Steele and Associates Architects designed the project, which is geared to appeal to all age levels, and Empire Construction & Development, led by well-known local developer Kevin Spencer, was the builder. Both are recognized as leading companies in Bend designing and building
The idea for the pickleball element of the venture was spawned in part due to the explosion in popularity of the pastime both locally and nationally, where it is among the fastest growing sports in North America with an appeal across generations.
Butch Roberts, who owns and operates nearby Cascade Indoor Sports and is also managing the new sportsplex, said he was approached several years ago by local pickleball enthusiast Werner Zhender about creating an indoor venue to widen opportunities to play while expanding the season beyond outdoor courts such as those at Bend Park & Recreation District’s Pine Nursery Park.
Zhender and his wife have been staunch supporters of promoting the sport in the community, including through financial backing, and will retain an involvement in 18th Street’s Pickleball Zone along with Roberts.
Roberts, who also has many years of experience in running an indoor soccer facility and sports programs, said, “I was open to the pickleball idea and could see the need to grow that part of the community but knew that it would not be viable as the sole income generator.
“I toured facilities across the country and ended up combining some of the best elements of what I saw into the unique mix that is now the 18th Street Sportsplex.
“Trampoline Parks are extremely popular and successful, especially in larger metro areas, and pickleball is the fastest growing racquet sport in the country, which hopefully makes our venture a win-win combination!
“Another factor I discovered was it would be better to stack the building to minimize the footprint while increasing parking capacity and we have over 120 spaces in the lot, with room for growth.
“One attraction of pickleball is that there is a lower learning curve, though it can be played at various levels of expertise, and there can be less strain on the joints than other sports such as tennis, especially for older participants.
“Our facility is climate-controlled which also offers the advantage of a consistent environment year-round and we are just a few minutes from the Pine Nursery courts, so when the wind picks up you know where to go!
“We also made a conscious decision to cluster all eight courts together to enhance the social nature of the activity. The demographic is skewing younger, which is encouraging for engaging youngsters on a more active level, and it is an ideal activity for intergenerational families to enjoy together.”
A reception and changing areas in the center of the third floor, accessible by elevator, are flanked by four dedicated pickleball courts on either side and a fourth-floor viewing area and lounge with indoor and outdoor seating, including a patio with two fire pits offering spectacular mountain views. The generous ceiling height necessary for the pickleball courts allows for the room above the bath and changing rooms for the fourth-floor mezzanine viewing platform and lounge.
The business model for the Pickleball Zone is a balance of Charter and Annual Memberships as well as individual court rental. In addition, lessons and clinics will be offered through the in-house Pickleball Academy.
The ground floor of the new complex features over 55 trampoline beds in various iterations, including a basketball dunking section, as well as 22 ft tall octagon-shaped climbing walls, a laser maze, gladiator pit and Ninja course with 15 elements that can be combined for medium to expert skill levels.
Specialist air pillows allow for soft landings, without the need to clamber out of the more traditional foam pits, and can also be utilized by snowboard enthusiasts wanting to practice tricks using foam boards. The facility also features several party rooms complete with video capability, as well as a first-floor café and a multi-purpose room which can be booked for training purposes or other community uses.
Roberts, whose Cascade Indoor Sports facility offers youth and adult indoor soccer leagues, roller skating and volleyball, added, “I think we have now filled every void, and can appeal to every demographic.
“With two floors of multiple activities, we figure kids, parents and grandparents can all find something to do in the same building.”
After running CIS for over nine years, Roberts said he has a sizable database of customers to whom he can market the new facility.
He also paid tribute to the collaborative effort involved in the project, saying, “This was a great team all around including from the design/build perspective and throughout all the specialist subs involved. I am grateful to everyone concerned, and I think I came to know every contractor’s name.
Steele Associates Architects President Scott Steele added, “This is a truly unique facility in the country, let alone Central Oregon, and the STEELE team has really enjoyed working with Butch and Werner to design it.
“It’s incredible how popular pickleball is, and how many of our friends play. My wife and I have caught the Pickleball bug too, as it’s not only a blast, but it’s very fun socially as well.
“As Butch mentioned to us, this facility is a place where all age groups come together, from seniors playing pickleball, to young children and everyone in between enjoying trampolines, ninja courses, climbing walls and a great café. It’s really a wonderful place for the entire family, and for team building (we’ll be bringing our whole firm in to play!).
“We also want to thank Kevin Spencer and Mark Meredith of Empire Development and Construction for all their hard work in building the project. Kevin was also instrumental in helping put the deal together and his pre-construction and planning input and estimating was invaluable.
“STEELE always looks forward to working with Kevin Spencer, and our firm appreciates not only his construction and development knowledge, but also his decades of generous support of many causes and organizations throughout Central Oregon. I also want to give kudos to STEELE Project Manager Adam Stephen and Interior Designer Shirley Bircher for their excellent work on
Pickleball is a paddle sport (similar to a racquet sport) that combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball, similar to a Wiffle Ball, over a net.
The sport shares features of other racquet sports, the dimensions and layout of a badminton court, and a net and rules somewhat similar to tennis, with several modifications.
Pickleball was invented in the mid 1960’s on Bainbridge Island, a short ferry ride from Seattle, Washington, as a children’s backyard pastime. Three dads – Joel Pritchard, Bill Bell and Barney McCallum — whose kids were bored with their usual summertime activities — are credited for creating the game. Its quirky name is thought to be derived from the Pritchard’s’ family cocker spaniel, Pickles, who loved to chase stray balls and hide them in the bushes.
It has evolved from original handmade equipment and simple rules into a popular sport throughout the US and Canada. The game is growing internationally as well, with many European and Asian countries adding courts.
Pickleball is considered one of the fastest growing and most inclusive sports in America A 2018 USA Pickleball Association report indicated it has over 2.8 million players in the United States — a more than a 12 percent increase over 2017, with that number expected to continue to grow in the next few years.
The ball is lighter than a tennis ball, the paddle shorter and there isn’t necessarily as much running back and forth. But the moderate exercise and social nature of the game keeps participants coming back, and new research suggests that taking up pickleball as a serious form of leisure can enhance mental health and well-being in older adults.
A feature of the game is that it can be enjoyed at any level of intensity. The rules are simple and the game is easy for beginners to learn, but can develop into a quick, fast-paced, competitive game for experienced players.
18th Street Sportsplex
63040 NE 18th St., Bend.
Hours: Pickleball 8am until 9pm; Trampoline Zone and Adventure Park 11am until 8pm.
18th Street SportsPlex
63040 NE 18th St., Bend. 541-330-1183