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Jax Daily Record Monday, Jun. 14, 202105:10 AM EST

Two pickleball courts planned for Toon Town in Talleyrand

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European Street Cafe owner Andy Zarka is leading the effort with three partners.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

Pickleball, the quickly growing racket sport, is coming to the Toon Town building in Talleyrand.

Jax Pickleball and European Street Cafe owner Andy Zarka, along with three business and pickleball partners Ricky Thais, JT Rhodes and Richard Parkes, propose adding two pickleball courts in the warehouse at 444 Talleyrand Ave. near TIAA Bank Field.

It will be the area’s first indoor facility that is played on outdoor-style courts. 

Zarka said there are indoor courts at the YMCA and several churches. Those are wooden gym floors and with an indoor pickleball court. 

Like outdoor courts, the Toon Town facility will be concrete, but under cover and shielded from the elements. 

Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. 

It is played on a badminton-size court that measures 44 feet by 20 feet, according to USA Pickleball. A standard tennis court is 78 feet by 36 feet and can be modified with tape or lines for pickleball play.

“It hasn’t been done yet so we saw what seemed to be enough of a desire for it,” Zarka said. 

“We’ve seen what some places in other cities had done and four of us get along as a group when we’re playing on the court and thought let’s give it a go as a business venture and see where we can take it.”

Jax Pickleball and European Street Cafe owner Andy Zarka and three business partners want to open Northeast Florida’s first indoor facility that is played on outdoor-style courts.

He hopes to open by August, pending building permit approvals. He will lease the property from the building owner, Chance Gerisch. 

Zarka said the courts, although not air-conditioned, will have exhaust fans and the building’s doors will allow for a crosswind through the building. 

If the courts are popular, he said he would consider adding three more to the space and possibly air conditioning.

He estimates the cost to transform the warehouse into a flat, concrete surface for playing is about $30,000. 

The space is about 16,000 square feet and has 15-foot-high ceilings, “plenty of room for pickleball courts,” he said. 

The courts will be pay-to-play, and Zarka said he plans to offer several membership options. Some days will be blocked off for walk-in players, leagues or tournaments. 

Zarka has not settled on pricing for the courts or memberships. 

While there are free places to play, Zarka said an increase in demand for the game has existing courts booked up many days of the week. 

“The biggest hurdle to that right now is that there are places to play that are free,” he said. 

“But if you can play someplace that’s covered and out of the elements, on good outdoor-style surfaces but indoors, we’ll see where that goes.”

Jax Pickleball, which Zarka opened at 1670 San Marco Blvd. in September, is a separate entity from the courts. It sells pickleball equipment.

Zarka said he might consider adding a pro shop to the Toon Town courts if they gain enough popularity.

As an active local pickleballer, Zarka said he continues to see the sport grow in popularity. 

He coaches a beginner’s clinic weekly at Southside Tennis Complex, where he has a handful of newcomers each week. The city opened two new pickleball facilities this year. 

“It doesn’t seem to be slowing down,” he said.

 “We’re seeing more and more people find a reason to get out and get some exercise and be around their friends.”

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