Old Bartlett movie theatre transforms into pickleball paradise

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Pickleball has taken over the country in the past few years. Now, the game is taking over Memphis.

John and Leslie Daniel have transformed Bartlett’s old Malco movie theatre into an indoor pickleball facility. Like millions of others, the pandemic led the Daniels to the game.

“We bought two paddles and we started playing. All of a sudden, we had 20 people from our building playing every weekend together,” said John Daniel, co-owner of Bluff City Pickleball.

Those weekend games allowed the Daniels to stay active after multiple health crises and a decade of marriage.

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“One day I think John and I just finished playing pickleball, and then I think we were going out to eat, and he just dropped this question on me and said, ‘Sweetie, am I crazy? If I look at, you know, building a pickleball facility?’ And I was like, ‘No. Hey, let’s look into it,’” said Leslie Daniel, co-owner of Bluff City Pickleball.

That crazy question turned into a genius idea to transform Bartlett’s old Malco movie theatre into Bluff City Pickleball, an eight-court indoor facility.

Through more than a year of work, the slanted movie floors were leveled, the acoustic walls and ceilings were removed and the projector floor was turned into a second-floor viewing area.

From ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Hustle and Flow,’ each court is now named after a popular movie.

“We’ve had a lot of people coming to play pickleball. There’s a sense of nostalgia. I had a great time here when I was a kid because I used to come here with my family and watch movies,” said John Daniel.

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The Daniels say the goal is for a diverse, family friendly environment for everyone.

“I mean, you know, listen, I am in a mixed-race relationship and we thought that in some small way, pickleball could be a way of bringing people together from all walks of life,” said John Daniels.

“It’s just exciting. It’s not just a pickleball facility. I mean, it’s just we want to bring it back to the community,” said Leslie Daniel.

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