Hungry for pickleball? Chicken N’ Pickle opening in Thornton, Parker

Pickleball is America’s fastest growing sport, and Chicken N’ Pickle wants to keep up. The Kansas City-based restaurant and pickleball venue plans to open its first two Colorado locations in Parker and Thornton next year.

“We love Denver, and we’re pretty proud to be a Midwest company with Midwest core values, plus the active lifestyle in Denver is a natural fit for us,” said Chicken N’ Pickle president Kelli Alldredge

Chicken N’ Pickle, founded by Dave Johnson in 2016, has purchased 1.5 acres of land within the 14.5-acre Gatherings at Parker development at the intersection of North Jordan Road and E-470. The company also purchased three acres in Thornton’s The Grove business and shopping center at the intersection of I-25 and 144th Avenue.

The company plans to break ground on both multi-level complexes, featuring six indoor courts and two covered outdoor courts, this year and open in 2024.

“We knew Denver was a market we wanted to get to, and honestly, I could see us not stopping at Parker and Thornton,” Alldredge said. “But to start off, we thought those two cities were a great distance apart, and we’ve been so impressed by both. They’ve been amazing to work with and offered such a warm welcome into Colorado. We leaned into the cities to help us find the right spot. We are very family-friendly, so we love to be where families are, and our concept takes up a lot of land, so we also have to keep that in mind.”

Pickleball, a mashup of tennis and ping-pong that is easy to learn and highly social, has exploded in popularity in recent years. Last month, the Sports and Fitness Industry Association reported that 8.9 million people played pickleball in 2022 — nearly double the previous year — making it the fastest-growing sport in the United States for the third year running.

Pickleball enthusiasts can rent Chicken N’ Pickle courts for family events, corporate gatherings or just a Tuesday afternoon with friends. Hour-long blocks range from $30 to $45.

The menu includes everything from wood-fired rotisserie chicken to hot fried chicken to grilled chicken or country fried chicken. The kitchen also serves burgers, salads and apps.

“We’re a pretty simple concept,” Alldredge said. “We’re a Wiffle ball and a paddle, which is what’s so popular about our concept. We love to provide a place for people to come, set down their cell phones and focus on human connection and community.”

Chicken N’ Pickle has seven locations in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. The company has six more in development, including in Arizona, Nevada and Indiana, in addition to the two in Colorado. And Alldredge said the business doesn’t plan to stop at just two.

“The sky’s the limit,” she said.

Chicken N’ Pickle isn’t the only venue taking advantage of the pickleball boom in Colorado. Pickleball Food Pub opened up in Westminster last year, and Punch Bowl Social founder Robert Thompson has plans to open Camp Pickle, a 70,000-square-foot facility with 14 indoor and outdoor courts, in Centennial next year.

And while the state may be full of pickleball players, some cities can’t stand the noise. Centennial approved a six-month moratorium on the construction of new outdoor pickleball courts in the city so that it can assess the potential for noise complaints, and how to minimize them. And last month, pickleball play at Congress Park in Denver came to an end after the city determined the noise from games there had become too much for neighbors.

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