Atlanta is on the radar for a future business development by entrepreneur Robert Thompson. He plans to bring Camp Pickle, his newest dining-and-games concept, to the city by 2026.
Joining in on the growing pickleball trend, the main feature of the venue will be 10 to 14 indoor and outdoor pickleball courts, along with a restaurant and bar.
Atlanta was a no-brainer for Thompson when deciding on cities. “I can’t get enough of the people, the economic vitality and the hard-working teammates,” he said. He is currently negotiating on multiple sites around the city.
With Camp Pickle, Thompson is harking back to a summer camp feel with tentlike, timber-built structures. Guests (aka campers) can get nostalgic playing such vintage games as duckpin bowling, darts, horseshoes and deck shuffle. Campfire-like food and drinks are planned to match the theme. Beverages will include cocktails set inside old Coleman coolers, enhancing the outdoorsy, camplike atmosphere.
“We feel the 22-year-old will find it kitschy, and the 65-year-old will find it nostalgic,” said Thompson. Food and drink service will be offered courtside. Tents, cabanas and fire pits are planned to keep players and guests warm and protected from unpleasant weather.
Pickleball is the fastest growing sport in the country, and the fact that the sport includes any level and age made the activity an attractive investment idea to Thompson. Players are willing to start and end their day playing the sport.
“Playing from morning to midnight allows for all-day revenue,” he said. “In the past, ‘eatertainment’ hasn’t had the opportunity to activate at 8 a.m.”
Thompson is well aware of the competition, however, with other pickleball spots rapidly opening up. “Many of the pickleball concepts coming to market seem to be more racquet club oriented versus design-forward ‘eatertainment’ venues,” he said. “Camp Pickle is experiential and a comprehensive brand experience.”
Thompson is ready to turn the healthy, addictive sport into a destination, but guests do not need to have a racket in hand to get the full experience. With Camp Pickle’s signature big tent, cozy fire pits and estimated 55,000 to 75,000-square-feet of venue space, “playing or not, either way, everyone is guaranteed a good time,” he says.
The venue’s size accommodates plans to host special events and occasions. “Our approach is to create these food-and beverage-centric social gaming activation concepts in large environments, catering to both a la carte folks off the streets, and large enough for big corporate event opportunities as well,” said Thompson.
The first location opens in Huntsville, Ala., in 2024.