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Pickler Provides Place To Play

By Emma Dill, posted Feb 16, 2024
Richard Holloman, executive director and primary owner of the House of Pickleball in Leland, plays on one of the HOP’s courts. Holloman had to double the size of The HOP because of the game’s popularity. (Photo by Madeline Gray)
Richard Holloman launched his quest to build the Cape Fear region’s first indoor pickleball facility after rain, cold temperatures and wind gusts hampered a three-day outdoor tournament he was helping host. 

“One day, we had rain all day; another day, it was 32 degrees when we started to play,” Holloman recounted, “and the other day, the wind blew 20 miles an hour.” 

The experience sent Holloman, a retired software company executive, on his way to playing at an array of indoor pickleball venues across the Southeastern U.S. in 2017. Although there were few dedicated indoor courts at the time, Holloman carried a tape measure and his laptop wherever he played, noting what he liked and didn’t like about the indoor facilities.  

The next summer, he used that field research to help shape designs for the House of Pickleball, or HOP. Plans included an HVAC system to keep the facility at a constant temperature and a floor cushioned with nine layers of rubber. Although an expensive investment, those layers have helped to ease joint pain for regular players, Holloman said.
 
“Our actual courts are the centerpiece of our facility,” he added. 

The facility’s initial phase consisted of approximately 12,000 square feet and included a lobby and six dedicated courts. It cost $1.5 million to build, with money raised from individual pickleball players and investors. Today, Holloman is the HOP’s primary owner and executive director. 

When the House of Pickleball opened its doors at 115 Kay Todd Road in Leland in the summer of 2018, it was slow going. 

“We opened on July 18, 2018, and the business really didn’t pick up until like the end of 2018,” Holloman said. “Sometimes we’d have three people sitting there waiting for a fourth one to come play.” 

Slowly but surely, business started picking up as pickleball became more mainstream. Then came the pandemic. 

“Just as we were really getting going good, COVID came, and we got closed down because we were an inside structure,” Holloman said. “Getting through that stretch was a real challenge for us.” 

He also credits celebrities and professional athletes with raising the profile of pickleball during the pandemic, as they adopted the sport and posted about it on social media. That helped draw a younger demographic into a sport whose players previously were primarily seniors. Before the pandemic, roughly 80% of the HOP’s members were over the age of 60, according to Holloman. 

Today, the House of Pickleball has around 2,000 members and regularly hosts players who travel from Myrtle Beach, Fayetteville, Raleigh and Emerald Isle, Holloman said. In all, the facility has seen players from 47 states and 10 countries. The center’s reach is evidenced by a courtside U.S. map with hundreds of pins, illustrating where players come from. 

As the HOP’s business picked up post-pandemic, it became clear to Holloman that the facility needed to grow. Last summer, an 18,000-square-foot addition opened, which more than doubled its size. The expansion added six new courts – for a total of 12 – along with a carpeted open space for players to view other games and hang out and an event room.  
While the HOP has run out of land, Holloman said the facility has enough players to warrant even more courts.  

Holloman didn’t discover pickleball until he retired to Brunswick Forest in 2015.  

A native of North Carolina, Holloman moved to Wilmington from Greenville in 1995, living in Landfall until he and his wife made the move to Brunswick Forest to be closer to their grandkids. Holloman, a former tennis player, went to the courts shortly after moving to Brunswick Forest. After hitting a few balls, his shoulder started acting up, and he headed home. But a group of pickleball players stopped him and invited him to play. 

“I walked in there and played one game with them, and I left three hours later,” Holloman said. “I was hooked right out of the gate.” 

From there, Holloman helped host pickleball tournaments at Brunswick Forest and teach beginners how to play alongside Jan Abbott. Abbott, who recently died, was one of Holloman’s partners in founding the HOP and is credited with helping bring pickleball courts to the Leland area after a visit to The Villages in Florida in 2012. 

In 2021, Holloman stepped into a larger role in the community with his election to the Leland Town Council. 

In the role, he draws upon his experience as the executive of a software company that catered to the administrative needs of towns and municipalities. After moving to Wilmington in 1995, Holloman worked for another software company that catered to police and fire departments and 911 call centers. 

Today, Holloman said he typically plays pickleball a few times a week and comes into the HOP almost daily to chat with regulars and greet new players. 

“I spend a lot of time here because I want to,” he said. “I’ve worked all my life, but I don’t consider this a job. I consider it a passion that has really resulted in a lot of enjoyment for a lot of people.”
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