Large indoor pickleball complex may come to former Dayton-area golf driving range

Developer: Deal to buy property near Riverside-Beavercreek border closed Friday; city has issued demolition permit for existing structure



A pickleball business operator is interested in building a large complex on long-dormant land in Riverside near Carroll High School, records show.

The concept involves the former home of Smiley’s Golf and Baseball Center at 4740 Linden Ave., which has been unused since 2015.

Mike Bettencourt of Black Barn Pickleball said he hopes the new center, when completed, will be the largest indoor facility in the state for what is the fastest growing sport in the U.S.

Bettencourt said he and his business partners closed on a deal to buy the more than 12-acre site on Friday.

“There’s no really good place to play dedicated, indoor pickleball in Dayton,” Bettencourt told the Dayton Daily News.



“And so we’re in this community of people that feels like there’s a high demand for something like this. And we’ve been trying to figure out a way to make it happen,” he added.

The land is on the south side of Linden Avenue in Riverside, just east of Carroll High School. It’s an interesting spot just a few hundred yards from the corporation lines of Beavercreek, Dayton and Kettering.

“We think is (the site) amazing,” Bettencourt said. It’s a “central location for north Dayton and south Dayton … right off Linden and (U.S.) 35 and (Interstate) 675.”

The Riverside site has been unused since 2015, when the land was auctioned after Smiley’s closed following nearly 70 years in business.

Riverside has issued a demolition permit, designating the site as a nuisance property, city records show. Bettencourt said he and his business partners are in the process of having engineering drawings and a site plan completed for the project.

A formal application for the complex would require Riverside planning commission approval, Community Development Director Nia Holt said last week.

Pickleball was the fastest growing sport in the U.S. in 2023 for the third consecutive year, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

As of January 2024, the number of known courts had increased by more than 1,000 to 50,000, the USA Pickleball website states. Numerous Dayton-area parks have added outdoor pickleball courts in the past few years. Some local tennis clubs have added indoor or outdoor pickleball to their existing tennis offerings.

The Pickle Lodge in West Chester Twp. north of Cincinnati is a pickleball-specific facility that includes 17 individually fenced, indoor pickleball courts and five outdoor courts. It is the second largest indoor pickleball complex in the country, according to its website.

Bettencourt said the goal for Black Barn Pickleball is to have a phased project that results in 18 indoor courts and perhaps some outdoor ones as well. A diagram shows the possibility of eight outdoor courts.

In 2022, the Linden Avenue site attracted the interest of a business proposing an estimated $25 million commercial development that drew concern from neighboring Riverside residents.

Residents told those associated with a potential project possibly involving retail, office, restaurants and apartments that they fear how such a development would affect the neighborhood.

At that time, Genesis Real Estate USA Inc. was under contract to buy the property, according to a company official.

Information from Genesis indicated potential mixed retail, restaurant, office and apartments. Any residential buildings would have been near the rear of the land — closer to neighbors’ homes — at up to four stories, according to the developer.

Some residents suggested a recreational use was more acceptable to neighboring landowners.

The Linden site was the home of Smiley’s from 1947 until 2015, featuring a driving range, miniature golf course and baseball batting-cage center.

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