Take a Look inside PKL, Southie’s Tricked Out Take on Pickleball
The indoor facility boasts five courts, plus upscale bar bites and a full cocktail menu.
It’s all but impossible to avoid pickleball in Boston these days. Once the purview of Boomer retirees, the pastime has rapidly morphed into an all-ages affair. Sure, your parents have picked it up. But, depending on the circles you run in, so have half your college buddies, or their kids, and a critical mass of billionaires, A-list celebrities, reality TV stars, and even a growing contingent of pro tennis players who’ve begun hanging up their rackets for paddles. And on any given day at Boston’s many public parks and YMCA gyms, the chorus of pickleball thunks is steadily growing louder.
So what’s a local aspiring pickleballer to do when the time finally comes to give in, and give this thing a try once and for all?
PKL, the brand-new paddling and cocktail-sipping emporium opening in South Boston, may have the answer.
The company, coasting on the success of its popular pickleball pop-up at Assembly Row last summer, is taking its hip and tricked-out take on the sport to a brick-and-mortar location indoors, at a 22,000 square foot space in Southie’s Iron Works building. It opens Saturday, June 18.
The space will feature five regulation pickleball courts, four shuffleboard courts, two cocktail-slinging bars, and a restaurant, plus ample lounge space and, for good measure, an area to toss some cornhole bags around between matches.
We took a tour of the facility last month as it was coming together, and it’s clear that what sets this location apart from all available competitors in Greater Boston are the vibes. Inside, you’ll find classy lounges, ample cabana seating, murals from Boston wall art it girl Blind Fox (credits include Lolita, Mariel, and the sexy table tennis concept SPIN) that make heavy use of the brand’s cheeky “space monkey” logo, and a dance party ready sound system, plus a liquor license that lets it keep the beats pumping until 2 a.m. on weekend nights.
Its menu, created by Chopped champion and Savenor’s GM Christopher Walker, includes shareable dishes like seared tuna, buttermilk fried chicken waffle bites, and Wagyu beef pigs in a blanket. At the bar, you can order hand-crafted cocktails, mocktails, and beers (among them an exclusive Castle Island variety available only there and at the nearby brewery.)
In other words, it’s exactly the blend of accommodations PKL hopes will make the facility a magnet for younger players, particularly those trying it out for the very first time who are unfamiliar with the rules, or perhaps not yet ready to march up to a municipal court and play pick-up matches.
“It can be intimidating if you don’t know the game,” Kaitlyn Coakley, PKL’s managing partner, tells me on a tour of the yet-to-open space. But here, she says, “You can take it seriously, or you can kind of just come and play.”
Pickleball courts are booked in advance and rented by the hour, at rates that range from $25 to $50, depending on the time of day. Shuffleboard will run you $30 an hour. Cornhole is free.
PKL supplies the paddles, and the whiffle-ball-like balls. Visitors looking for help can seek the guidance of pickleball experts on staff, or sign up for lessons ($100 an hour for a group of four). More seasoned players are welcome to organize tournaments, or join an official league. Not sure if you’re ready to dive in head-first? Coakley says she urges any “pickle virgins” (their words, not mine) to drop by for a bite and simply watch the action unfold.
While this is very much a first for Boston specifically, PKL is following in the footsteps of other elevated pickleball concepts that have become popular in the midwest, or Pickles, an indoor pickleball facility with more of a health club feel that opened last year in Hanover.
PKL comes to us by way of Dustin Martin and Brian Weller, of local Barry’s fame. Coakley says the idea for the city’s first luxe paddling destination came about in the turmoil of 2020, a time when everyone, including the city’s workout entrepreneurs, was reacting to the pandemic and adjusting their hobbies accordingly.
“We were all forced to socialize outside, and we’re all from the fitness industry, so bonding over social sports games like this came really naturally,” she says. “And then it got to be, like, ‘OK, who’s bringing the cocktails? Whose house are we hanging out at after?’ And that’s how this concept was born.”
Now, the PKL team hopes this Southie location will be just the first of many. They’ve got their eyes on bringing the brand to other similarly pickle-hungry cities.
After all, if the pickleball trend shows no signs of slowing down, why not take your space monkey to the moon?
PKL opens Saturday, June 18. Find it at 64 C St. in South Boston. playpkl.com