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Life Time Fitness leans into pickleball with Lululemon partnership, new jobs and more – NBC Boston

  • Life Time Fitness is looking to grow its brand by investing in America’s fastest growing sport, pickleball, and expanding its offerings.
  • The luxury fitness company has teamed up with Lululemon, calling it an official apparel partner of Life Time pickleball and tennis.
  • It also has partnerships with tennis legend Andre Agassi and top-rated pickleball player Ben Johns to further grow the sport.
Ben Johns and Anna Bright play pickleball at the new Life Time at Penn 1 next to Madison Square Garden in New York City on May 4, 2024.
Mike Stobe | Getty Images

Ben Johns and Anna Bright play pickleball at the new Life Time at Penn 1 next to Madison Square Garden in New York City on May 4, 2024.

Life Time Fitness is all-in on pickleball.

That dedication to America’s fastest-growing sport was evident Saturday in New York City, where one of the world’s top-ranked male pickleball players, Ben Johns, and former tennis great Andre Agassi were practicing their dinks and drops at the brand new Life Time club. Courts.

It’s all part of the luxury fitness company’s strategy to grow its brand by investing in pickleball.

To continue that goal, Life Time announced Tuesday that it is teaming up with Lululemon, naming the company the official apparel partner of Life Time pickleball and tennis. The relationship includes selling Lululemon apparel online at Life Time clubs, in addition to collaborating on major pickleball events.

“This partnership highlights the extraordinary growth of these sports and brings together the best in athletic apparel with the best in tennis and pickleball experiences,” said Celeste Burgoyne, president of Americas and global guest innovation at Lululemon.

Founded in 1992, Life Time currently has more than 170 “athletic country clubs” across the country.

Such clubs are looking for creative new ways to get America moving again as the fitness landscape has evolved post-Covid. Life Time CEO and founder Bahram Akradi, an avid pickleball player himself, is betting the hot, tennis-like sport will be that catalyst.

“Pickleball works. It’s full all the time,” he told CNBC.

And it continues to grow. On Saturday, Life Time unveiled Manhattan’s largest indoor pickleball destination, just steps from Penn Station. The 51,000-square-foot club features seven street-level pickleball courts that officially opened April 15.

Akradi said the company has installed new playing surfaces or remodeled tennis courts nationwide and now offers more than 700 pickleball courts nationwide. It has become the largest provider of permanent pickleball courts in the country.

Akradi estimates that the company has already invested between $50 million and $100 million in pickleball, and has captured 6% to 7% of Life Time’s membership dues.

“That’s substantial. That’s a big number,” he said.

Life Time also partners with professional pickleball to host nearly a dozen pickleball tournaments on the company’s courts, some of which are even broadcast on national television. This week, for example, the Atlanta Open, part of the PPA Tour, will join a Life Time in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, where 16,000 people are expected to attend.

Andre Agassi and Anna Bright play pickleball at the new Life Time at Penn 1 next to Madison Square Garden in New York City on May 4, 2024.
Mike Stobe | Getty Images

Andre Agassi and Anna Bright play pickleball at the new Life Time at Penn 1 next to Madison Square Garden in New York City on May 4, 2024.

Agassi recently started playing pickleball, a lower-impact sport, after years of wear and tear on his body from his illustrious tennis career.

“I think wherever we are now, in the next five to seven years there will be 10 times as many people playing the sport,” Agassi told CNBC. He said he thinks pickleball will be successful because it promotes healthy habits, builds community and has a low entry level for beginners.

In February, Life Time named Agassi the inaugural chairman of the company’s newly formed pickleball and tennis board, where he will be tasked with elevating the sport’s profile, programming and competitions.

“My hope is that it grows in college and grows in the Olympics,” Agassi said.

Off the court, Life Time now offers advice from top pickleball player Johns. The company announced last month that he and his brother Collin will offer members 70 instructional videos to help players take their game to the next level.

“We partnered with Life Time because they are very interested in spreading pickleball and helping their members get better,” Johns told CNBC.

Johns has had a front-row seat to the sport’s exponential growth and said he has seen his salary grow tenfold since 2021 as pickleball has secured more sponsors and media rights.

Life Time’s pickleball strategy is already showing initial results.

While shares of Life Time fell about 23% between March 2023 and March 2024, its first quarter earnings report showed total revenue growing $85 million from March last year, adjusted EBITDA up more than 20% rose and net membership rose by 38,000.

Analysts blame recent poor stock performance on a combination of macro, balance sheet and interest rate concerns.

“LTH remains, in our view, the most underrated story in our reporting and perhaps in the broader consumer space,” a Guggenheim analyst wrote on May 1.