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ACTIVITIES Pickleball, fine eats and fun are all at SPF
by Andrew Davis
2024-03-21

This article shared 7488 times since Thu Mar 21, 2024
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Despite the fact that it was invented in 1965, pickleball has only really entered the national consciousness within the last few years.

However, there really hadn't been a large indoor dedicated space in Chicago for the sport with the blossoming popularity—until now.

The Lincoln Park spot SPF, 2121 N. Clybourn Ave., is a 42,000-square-foot temperature-controlled pickleball, dining and entertainment concept that features state-of-the-art amenities and intriguing dining options. It opened in late January and is going strong; even visiting during a weekday afternoon, most of the courts were occupied, with one group playing for at least three hours.

"I'm not exactly sure why it took so long to find such a facility," affable SPF co-founder Rich Green told me. "I think finding the right real estate is important. We [Green and wife Lisa] were very fortunate," adding that they reside next door to the venue.

The space includes eight dedicated indoor pickleball courts with instant replay technology and there's even a spot that lets you play in a glow-in-the-dark environment. And the really good news is that people of all abilities will feel at home here. "Whether you're a seasoned pickleball player, you're picking up a paddle for the first time or you're just in to cheer on your friends and family, everyone is welcome," Green said in a statement, confirming that sentiment when I spoke with him.The courts themselves offer advantages over outdoor ones, such as "cushioned surfaces that are good for the joints," he added.

However, if you think that this is all you can play there, you're sadly mistaken; other offerings include foosball, air hockey, cornhole, ping pong and even a game that simply requires you to toss a ring that's on a string onto a hook (and it's a lot harder than it looks). And after you're sweaty from playing, you can retire to a state-of-the-art locker room that has everything from upscale personal products to showers and saunas. (However, don't forget to take your cellphone with you as you leave the locker room, as you'll need it to re-enter that area.) And there's a versatile space in which Green plans to show March Madness games (in addition to the TV screens already in place behind the bars).

SPF also hosts the Cucumber Club (sponsored by Wilson Sporting Goods) for children ages 3-11. It includes tennis and pickleball camps, lessons, special events and more. Designed for kids to develop their skills through lessons and clinics for each age group while providing a new way to stay active, Cucumber Club's goal is to engage every child on the court and keep them moving with a progressive approach to fundamental athletic skills.

However, SPF offers more than activities, as the food-and-beverage program is quite impressive. There are two full cocktail bars, a coffee bar by Kikwetu Coffee, and grab-and-go items—like duck grilled-cheese sandwiches and tuna melts—that you're unlikely to see in many other athletic facilities. In addition, Green told me,"There's a back area where we're going to have a lounge and a speakeasy."

Bringing new food options to the neighborhood, SPF has partnered with a variety of Chicago-favorite chefs and restaurateurs, including Honey Butter Fried Chicken founders Josh Kulp and Christine Cikowski, along with celebrated Chicago-based Chef, Tom Carlin.

And, by the way, what does SPF stand for? Despite seeing and thinking of other alternatives (with the statement "Protect Your Fun" having some people thinking of "sun protection factor"), the acronym actually stands for "Social. Pickleball. Fun," and you will certainly have fun at this spot that has something for everyone—especially if you win, which is what my friend and I did during our outing.

Courts at SPF start at $40/hr. (or $10/hr. per person in a four-person outing) and the venue is open daily at 6 a.m.-11 p.m.; visit www.playspf.com/ to make your reservation.


This article shared 7488 times since Thu Mar 21, 2024
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