Four Fathers is securing its place among destination breweries with the construction of a first-of-its-kind Pickleball Society at the back of its historic warehouse at 125 Guelph Ave in Hespeler.
Two years after launching a disc-golf course, and looking ahead to the possibility of renting out kayaks and canoes, Four Fathers is going all in on the pickleball craze after dabbling with the idea for months.
The new Pickleball Society is a members-only club that will feature six indoor courts complete with professional grade court surfaces, permanent nets, dividers, changerooms with showers and a full-service lounge area for members.
Renovations are well underway inside the sprawling warehouse behind the brew tanks with courts set to open in late fall, offering picklers a new opportunity to enjoy the rapidly growing sport that's sweeping across North America.
The Pickleball Society is the culmination of months of planning by Four Fathers co-owner and general manager Mike Hruden and his team, who recognized a growing passion for pickleball in early 2022.
Earlier this year, the brewery owners decided to embrace the sport and begin building the first dedicated, professional-grade pickleball club in the Cambridge area.
Hruden says he was hooked on the game, known for drawing players of all ages and skill levels, soon after he stepped onto a pickleball court in Naples, FLA for the first time last year.
He was on vacation with Four Fathers co-owner Martin Castellan when they stumbled onto a community park filled with pickleball courts. They met two women in their seventies who offered to introduce them to the game.
"They handed it to us," he says with a laugh.
When Hruden returned to Cambridge, he started to look at the empty space behind the beer tanks with a pickleball court in mind.
He bought a line kit and painted two courts, adding temporary nets last year and inviting friends and family out for the occasional game.
As more people found out about it, interest grew and Hruden and his team cleared out more space in the warehouse to see how far they could take it, noting "what it a shame it would be" not to utilize the space for a game they all love.
Nine months later, the Pickleball Society is well on its way to adding interest and additional revenue to the destination brewery that like all hospitality businesses suffered a major hit during COVID.
Members of the club will enjoy advance registration and discounts on tournaments, clinics, coaching opportunities and workshops, along with coaching and daily programming curated by the brewery’s pickleball specialists.
While the brewery owners are excited to offer “home-brewed” coaching and programming options, the team is also working on collaborations with organizations such as The Good Games and Taylored Pickleball in an effort to offer a wide variety of events, programs, and workshops and ensure their courts welcome players of all skill levels and abilities.
An accessible separate entrance with wheelchair ramp and automated doors is also being added along the pond side of the brewery, along with dedicated parking.
In an effort to further support the growth of the game, Four Fathers Brewing has also recently became a sponsor of the Southwestern Ontario Brewers, a pro pickleball team playing in the new Canadian National Pickleball League (CNPL).
Marketing manager for the brewery Emily Kerr says utilizing the space, filling it with great ideas and bringing the community along for the ride has been a goal from day one.
Hruden says the goal to give back to Cambridge has always been strong, but he hopes the Pickleball Society attracts interest from beyond city limits since the brewery is only 20 minutes from major centres like Kitchener and Guelph.
Patricia Archambault, manager of pickleball programming at the brewery, said the Pickleball Society is a step in the right direction.
“Four Fathers aims to provide court play, lessons, clinics, competitive leagues, and tournaments to ensure that everyone is having a blast in a welcoming and social environment," she says in a press release.
The space will also feature a full-menu food and beer service area called The Kitchen, including a pro shop selling pickleball gear and swag with Pickleball Society branding.
Hruden says anyone who's played the game will know the name is a nod to the area of the court directly in front of the net.
The kitchen is the court-wide box where balls have to bounce once before they can be returned. And it's one of the fundamental game rules that makes pickleball such an accessible and easy-to-learn sport since it slows down play and makes it easier for players of almost any skill level to hit the ball.
Hruden says local tennis players will likely appreciate the dedicated space knowing the growing sport of pickleball won't be encroaching on their courts as it has in communities around the globe.
Four Fathers plans to host an "epic Grand Opening Welcome Week" to celebrate the project.
The week will feature seven days of free pickleball programming, which includes celebrity guest matches, corporate learn-to-play opportunities, junior invitationals,
family play days, community ladder challenges, and opportunities for the public to tour the facility.
“This will be the grand opening of all grand openings; we are not holding back on any chances to offer everyone and anyone the opportunity to experience this awesome game,” said Archambault.
Those interested in purchasing a membership can sign up for the brewery’s membership waitlist online.
Construction updates, a list of amenities and a grand opening invitation will be emailed to everyone who signs up.