LIFE AFTER RETIREMENT: PBX Pickleball features former MLB, NHL and NFL athletes competing with amateurs. From left, Caleb Sturgis, Jeff Conine, Ryan Sherry, Toby Hall, J.D. Drew and Brian Roberts. Back: Urban Meyer, Adam Hall, Brandon Siler, Brad Penny, Tino Martinez, Josh Roenicke, Ruslan Fedotenko and Kent Mercker. (Courtesy PBX Pickleball)


The Sports Facilities Companies is in the business of “improving the health and economic health” of communities by developing and managing sports and recreational venues and advising municipalities interested in building complexes. Now, they’re expanding their services by forming competition on the court and delivering a unique experience for pickleball players across the country.

In June, the company announced a partnership with professional sports alumni associations to launch PBX Pickleball, a pro-am venture that gives fans of the sport, which combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis, an opportunity to watch and play against their favorite former athletes. Among PBX’s ambassadors are World Series champions Tino Martinez, Kevin Youkilis and Kent Mercker, Super Bowl winner Golden Tate and retired Stanley Cup champs Patrick Sharp and Freddy Modin.

FROM THE DIAMOND TO THE COURT: Tino Martinez is among former pro athletes participating in PBX Pickleball events. (Courtesy PBX Pickleball)

PBX will soon announce where its events will be held, according to Jason Clement, CEO of Sports Facilities Companies, things “have really accelerated” the past seven months, and announcements should soon be posted on the website,

Clement doesn’t view PBX as a professional league competing against the Tom Brady-backed Major League Pickleball but rather as a complementary organization with events beginning this fall.

“We’re not professional pickleball players,” he said. “We’re providing a platform for former pro athletes and Olympians who love pickleball to play. They still want to compete. They still want the camaraderie and we want to provide that platform for them.”

SFC manages 45 venues in 18 states and uses those relationships to market PBX events. They have worked with cities to repurpose existing recreational facilities into pickleball courts and manage several sites, including Louisiana’s West Monroe Sports & Events and Bill Noble Park in Gardendale, Alabama.

“Our organization has hung its hat on understanding trends for sports and helping communities, cities and private developers across the country determine the assets to put into their community,” Clement says. “We’ve studied the demographics and believe pickleball is here to stay. It doesn’t take a lot (of physical talent) to play. It’s a small court and the games are fast-paced.”

FASTED-GROWING GAME: Sports Facilities Companies partnered with former athletes and sports execs to form PBX.

The company is selling equity to acquire talent and allocated about $5 million to launch the project. PBX is nearing a long-term partnership with USA Pickleball, the national governing body of the sport. Earlier this year, the Sports & Fitness Industry Association stated that pickleball is the fastest-growing sport with participation doubling in 2022, and Clement believes the avid player will embrace the opportunity chance to compete against their pro sports heroes.

On top of the tour and pro-am tournaments, PBX offers corporate experiences and “Dream Weekends,” which allow amateurs to learn from pro pickleball players and interact with PBX’s roster of retired pro athletes.

“We want to engage with the fans and find a way to let them inside the ropes so they can participate, contribute and play with us,” Clement says. “The interest level is extraordinary, and it’s going to be fun programming content and activities to scale out across the country.”

The concept of PBX has been percolating for more than a year. The co-founders are a group of sports industry leaders and former athletes that includes Ken Byck (who co-owned Sports Fantasy Camp); Paul Holmgren (former NHL All-Star and Philadelphia Flyers general manager); Sue Schlegel (vice president of agency operations at Group G Marketing Partners); and Kevin Wilson (former baseball player and coach). Former CEO of USA Pickleball Stu Upson and Mark Piazza, former senior vice president of operations for the New York Knicks and New York Rangers, are strategic advisors.

“They approached us [earlier in the year] and told us they think their idea had legs,” Clement said. “We jumped on it because of our understanding of the [sports] space and market and partnered with them. We’re entrepreneurial, I am bullish on this one as anything else, because of the socioeconomic opportunity to bring people together and to improve the health and economic vitality of these communities.”