You know pickleball has made it as a sport when Subway ties a sandwich to it.
Subway on Thursday unveiled its new Pickleball Club, which is scheduled to debut in restaurants nationally on April 27. The sandwich chain is teaming up with tennis legend Andy Roddick, once the No. 1 tennis player in the world and winner of the 2003 U.S. Open, to promote the new menu item.
Roddick apparently has switched his racquet for a paddle and will be dinking against other tennis greats like John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Michael Chang on April 2 at the first-ever Pickleball Slam at the Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Fla., a property that includes a building shaped like a giant guitar.
Subway is a sponsor of the event, which was created and is produced by Horizon Sports & Experiences and InsideOut Sports & Entertainment. It will be televised live on ESPN at noon Eastern, an hour when most people who actually play pickleball will be fighting for their own time on the court.
(The Pickleball Slam will be singles matches, even though pickleball is arguably more interesting to watch as a doubles game because of the speed of rallies.)
“Subway is as excited as I am about the Pickleball Slam, but also how much fun it is to learn the game and be a part of Pickleball culture,” said Roddick in a statement.
He demonstrates that new-found knowledge in the next statement by making a reference to “the kitchen,” which is a no-volley zone on a pickleball court:
“Whether you’re a regular in the kitchen or have never even seen a pickleball court, the all-new Pickleball Club has the perfect mix of Subway signature crave and delicious ingredients to keep things fresh,” he said.
Subway’s Pickleball Club will include two new ingredients: Honey Mustard and, not surprisingly, thicker, crunchier dill pickles, the company said.
The club has black forest ham, double the American cheese, crispy hickory smoked bacon, lettuce, tomatoes and red onions on the chain’s Artisan Italian bread.
Subway isn’t the first restaurant chain to tap into the growing popularity of pickleball, a particularly social sport, which by some estimates is now played by more than 8 million Americans.
Margaritaville was a sponsor of the USA Pickleball National Championships last year (Jimmy Buffet is reportedly a fan of the game).
Shake Shack has a pickleball club (not the sandwich kind) in New York, and there has been a wave of pickleball-themed eatertainment venues growing across the country, including Chicken N Pickle, Smash Park and Camp Pickle.
Camp Pickle, for example, a concept developed by Punch Bowl Social founder Robert Thompson, this week announced the hire of chef Manny Barella to lead the concept’s culinary program, as well as sister brand Jaguar Bolera, another eatertainment brand with games like duckpins and more. Barella was nominated in 2022 for a James Beard Award as an emerging chef while at the Denver concept Bellota.
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