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Is a Pickleball Complex on the Horizon for Peachtree Corners?

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In the past few decades, a sport with a kind of silly name has been sweeping the suburbs. Pickleball uses a smaller version of a tennis court with a plastic whiffle-type ball and a racquet that’s not unlike a ping-pong paddle. 

Reports have shown that people enjoy the sport because it’s not as strenuous or expensive to play and doesn’t require the same skill level as tennis. Yet, finding a place to play has become increasingly difficult. 

Pickleball in Peachtree Corners

Always keeping its finger on the pulse of the community, the city of Peachtree Corners may be considering a major facility for players and spectators alike.

“As you all remember, a number of months ago, we were in preparation for getting to a point where we might be able to make a decision on this phenomenon, we all know is pickleball,” said City Manager Brian Johnson

“How big is it here in Peachtree Corners? What might the city be involved in facilitating? Would it be of value to us? How much would it cost?” he asked.

With those questions in mind, the city of Peachtree Corners contracted with Sports Facilities Advisory (SFA) in April to produce a five-year financial forecast for developing a pickleball complex. The findings were presented at a city council work session on Sept. 12.

Key criteria for the complex

The city asked for several models, including indoor and outdoor facilities, a possible full-service restaurant and basic concession offerings. 

Multiple models were considered based on their ability to complement, rather than compete with, national scale pickleball events currently scheduled at nearby facilities.

For the city to consider such a costly endeavor, several “measurements of success” were required for it to be feasible. 

“We want to attract non-local visitors to an area and drive that economic impact with hotel room nights and direct spending,” said Suzanne Fisher Reeder, an account executive and project manager for SFA.

These measurements were gleaned from a stakeholder meeting back in June, and SFA condensed them into three major points:

The first is to create a best-in-market hub for pickleball tournaments and events that attract non-local visitors to Peachtree Corners. This hub must make an economic impact, including hotel room nights and direct spending to adjacent businesses.

The second point is to leverage revenue-generating opportunities and spaces to create a business model that limits ongoing subsidy requirements.

Lastly, to develop an adaptable, flexible facility and operating model that maximizes use for pickleball tourism. 

“So, what does that look like?” asked Reeder. “We actually look at three different options.”

Examining the possibilities

The first option was a local model with a 12-court facility with six indoor and six outdoor courts to support local play (ALTA and USGA).

The next model was a mid-level option with 24 courts. There would be 12 Indoor and 12 outdoor covered courts. It would support local play and tournament play. 

“That would be weekend play and three-to-five-day tournaments,” said Reeder.

The largest was a national tournament model with 60 courts, 48 indoor and 12 outdoor courts covered. 

“It could host very large national tournaments but also support your local players,” said Reeder.

Once the options were presented, SFA took a Goldilocks approach in its recommendation. The lower-end option would be suitable for local play. 

It could accommodate those in Peachtree Corners looking for a facility, but it would not be large enough for tournaments or attracting tourism. 

The high-end option wouldn’t be as cost-effective and could compete with existing businesses. Most concerning, it wouldn’t be utilized enough to account for the expense. The mid-level option appeared to be the sweet spot.

“The 24-court pickleball indoor/outdoor [model] … is about 55,000 square feet of indoor [space], 35,000 square feet outdoors, seven total acres to build, and we have a full breakdown of the model,” said Reeder.

Economic impact

The breakdown included food and beverage options, an outdoor event area, an indoor upstairs bar-type restaurant, a membership lounge, a parking lot and other things needed for regional tournaments and to support local players.

“When we look at revenue, we look at all of the potential business units that could take place within the facility,” said Reeder. 

SFA calculations showed that the complex could generate about $8 million in the first four years, with year five at close to $9 million. After operating costs, profit would be around $5 million annually.

Looking at economic impact, Reeder said they expect the typical out-of-towner would spend an average of $120.72 per night on food, lodgings and miscellaneous expenses. 

Overnight stays would start at around 4,000 hotel rooms in the first year, growing to about 16,000 rooms by year five, depending upon the number of tournaments.

“We’ve also projected the number of tournaments starting at nine, leading up to 16. Including everything from one or two-day tournaments up to five-day tournaments,” said Reeder.

More work to be done

The mid-level model seemed to fulfill the three requirements for success mainly because it would be operationally sustainable and wouldn’t require a subsidy. 

The discussion continued after SFA’s recommendation. Concerns about public and private partnerships, competition in other parts of metro Atlanta, the longevity of the concept and acquisition of property arose. 

The issue is far from being resolved, and the city council has a lot more research ahead.

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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The ALTA Foundation Announces the 2024 L. Keith Wood Scholarship Award Winners

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Congratulations to the eight well-deserving recipients who will receive this year’s L. Keith Wood Scholarship award winners scholarship. ALTA Foundation committee members reviewed numerous applications from exceptionally talented, intelligent and community focused students to make their decisions.

To qualify for this award, candidates must have engaged in either the ALTA Junior League, participated in the Junior Challenge Ladder, or been involved in the Foundation’s START program. They had to have shown a dedication to community and volunteer service along with being able to display how tennis has assisted with their growth, both on and off the court.

Each awardee will be granted a $2,500 scholarship to support their educational endeavors and will be honored on center court during ALTA Day on July 22 at the Atlanta Open.

Here are the winners:

Isabelle Coursey – Atlanta, GA
ALTA Facility: Dekalb Tennis Center
Graduate of: Chamblee High School
Attending: Georgia Tech

Riley Hamrick – Peachtree Corners, GA
ALTA Facility: Peachtree Station Swim and Tennis
Graduate of: Norcross High School
Attending: University of Georgia

Athena Misewicz – Dunwoody, GA
ALTA Facility: Dunwoody Country Club
Graduate of: Dunwoody High Schoolz
Attending: University of Georgia

Prisha Mody – Johns Creek, GA
ALTA Facility: Peachtree Station
Graduate of: Johns Creek High School
Attending: University of Georgia

Mara Opre – Suwanee, GA
ALTA Facility: Sharon Springs Park
Graduate of: Lambert High School
Attending: Anderson University

Ben Stone – Suwanee, GA
ALTA Facility: Mayfair/ St. Clair
Graduate of: Lambert High School
Attending: University of Alabama

Ally Turnbough – Snellville, GA
ALTA Facility: Briscoe Park
Graduate of: Greater Atlanta Christian School
Attending: Clark Atlanta University

Davis Wall – Duluth, GA
ALTA Facility: Canterbury Woods
Graduate of: Peachtree Ridge High School
Attending: University of Georgia

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Sports

Peachtree Corners Gets Pole Position in Speed Week 2024

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The 2024 Curiosity Lab Criterium will take place on a course in the world-famous Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners.
Criterium Race in 2023

The first Curiosity Lab Criterium took place last year on a cold, rainy day, but the weather didn’t dampen enthusiasm for the event.

The collection of Speed Week criteriums in Georgia and South Carolina kicks off Thursday, April 25, in Greenville, SC, and wraps up on Sunday, May 5, in College Park, GA.

Peachtree Corners has added many new components this year, including a Sunday time slot.

“It was a good opportunity for us to get a feel for it,” said Louis Svehla, the city’s communications director. “[We got to see] how it would work in the setup and stuff like that.”

This year’s event will also feature a running race, races for kids, food trucks, vendors and other activities for the family.

Speed Week is a premiere event on the U.S. Pro Cycling Circuit that draws cyclists worldwide, including Olympic medalists and world and national champions.  In 2023, the professional men’s and women’s events drew cyclists from over 30 states and more than 20 countries.

Criterium Race in 2023

Gearing up for race day

The 2024 Curiosity Lab Criterium will take place on a course in the world-famous Curiosity Lab in Peachtree Corners, a 5G-enabled, 500-acre living laboratory ecosystem designed specifically as a proving ground for IoT, mobility and smart city technologies.

The Curiosity Lab Criterium will feature an array of innovative technologies currently being deployed to help protect vulnerable road users (VRUs). This event will also showcase the VRU technology of tomorrow as exhibited by private sector V2X companies and sensor innovators, OEMs hardware and software manufacturers, government officials, bike companies, advocacy groups and more.

“Despite it being a dreary day in the middle of the week last year, the public showed up and had a good time,” Svehla said.

“We always want people to gather and hang out with each other, especially when these events are free and really for them,” he added.

“For our first one, we were very happy with the turnout. … The vendors and the food trucks we hired for the event made their minimums, so they didn’t cost the city any money,” he explained.

Criterium Race in 2023

Even better than last year

Event producers, sponsors and race teams also gave great feedback.

“They were ecstatic about this course. They absolutely loved it because it’s unlike any other course they have on this circuit,” he said. “They love that there were elevation changes and … it was in a different type setting, not just on a city street like others.”

The success of that first year prompted the promoters to move this year’s race to a Sunday, a weekend race. It’s the day after the Athens race and the second one in Georgia.

“It’s not really far distance,” Svehla added. “And because of that, we expect to have more professional riders, both in the men’s and women’s professional divisions. And we’re hoping that also boosts the amount of … third tier riders that are amateurs but want to compete.”

“Last year’s races started at 3 p.m., and I think the last race went off at 9 p.m.,” he said. “This year, we are starting at 10 in the morning.”

The last race starts at 8 p.m. and lasts about an hour. In between, there are several junior categories for kids from 9 to 14 years old, a 130-yard race for little kids ages 5 to 9, a foot race and many family-friendly activities.

“Although the bike races are open to whoever registers, the running races are invitational only,” Svehla said.

“They’re inviting some of the best runners from the Southeast,” he said. These people are going to run a sub-six-minute mile, minimum.”

3-D printed trophy

Taking home the gold

Last year’s custom 3-D printed trophies for the professional men and women competitors will be replicated in smaller trophies and medals for the amateur racers.

The design is the same as last year, but the spokes on the wheel are gold. Local company ZhumeisterLabs (ZLabs3D) will be making the trophies.

In addition to being a fun, family-focused event, Curiosity Lab Criterium is also a chance to showcase the best of Peachtree Corners.

“[This] allows us to showcase Curiosity Lab, its different technologies and what being an IT city means,” said Svehla.

“We also want to be a leader in working with companies to provide solutions that make being on the road or next to the roadway as safe as possible. This, hopefully, will encourage more cycling, walking, running and multi-use trails.”

Curiosity Lab Criterium 2024

What: U.S. Pro Cycling Circuit Race and Running Race 
When: Sunday, April 28
Time: 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Where: Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners City Hall (310 Technology Pkwy)
Learn more about the event at peachtreecornersga.gov/385/Curiosity-Lab-Criterium-2024.

Speed Week Events
April 25 through May 5

Greenville Cycling Classic
Greenville, SC
Thursday, April 25

Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Criterium
Spartanburg, SC
Saturday, April 27

Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight Criterium p/b Michelob Ultra
Athens, GA
Sunday, April 28

Curiosity Lab Criterium
Peachtree Corners, GA
Tuesday, April 30

Spin the District – Union City criterium
Union City, GA
Wednesday, May 1 (non-speed week event)

Bonus! Track racing @ Dick Lane Velodrome
East Point, GA
Friday, May 3

Spin the District – Hapeville Criterium
Hapeville, GA
Saturday, May 4

Lagrange Cycling Classic
Lagrange, GA
Sunday, May 5

Speed Week Finals – Spin the District – College Park Criterium
College Park, GA
Sunday, May 5

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Business

Deflecting debilitating blows one Guardian Cap at a time

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A Guardian Cap in use courtesy of Guardian Sports

With football season in the rearview for most players, the effects of injuries–especially those blows to the head–can alter careers and live well after the final play.

A relatively new piece of equipment manufactured in Peachtree Corners helps alleviate much of the impact from those hits that a helmet alone can’t deflect.

Husband and wife team Lee and Erin Hanson started Guardian Sports in 2011 with one goal: innovating equipment to better serve athletes. But one must go back even further to understand the science behind their technology.

“[Our initial company] really had nothing to do with sports,” said Erin.

She and her husband started the Hanson Group, a material science company, about 30 years ago.

“The Hanson Group solves problems for other companies–material science problems,” she said.

“Lee is a chemical engineer from Georgia Tech. … [He created] things for the military and all kinds of applications for all kinds of Fortune 500 companies. If they need something done quickly, they come to the Hanson Group and we try to solve their material science problems,” she explained.

By chance, someone from the helmet industry came to them looking to make a more flexible helmet.

“We saw the data behind what it could do to flex the exterior of a helmet,” she said. “And even though that company didn’t make it, we decided that if we could retrofit any football helmet inexpensively, we could cut down on the impact that all players were feeling.”

Making football fun and safe for all

When the idea for Guardian Caps came together, the Hansons weren’t considering adding another division to the company.

The drive to make the helmet accessory grew from the passion to help the game.

“Quite honestly, Lee and I were pretty far along in our lives. We had raised five children, and he had been at the Hanson Group for at least 20 years by then,” said Erin.

The couple questioned whether they wanted to launch something new and revolutionary. There was nothing like it on the market.

“We felt like if we’re going to go direct to consumer, we’re going to branch off to a whole new company and just go for it and see if we can make a difference,” said Erin.

Through trial and error, Lee and his team analyzed data that showed what a softer helmet exterior could do to reduce impact, which would translate into reducing injury rates.

“And how can we do it in a way that’s affordable and could be available for mass adoption?” Lee said during an interview with the city of Peachtree Corners.

“How can I make it affordable to that mom who’s already buying all that equipment for her child to play youth football? How can we create a one-size-fits-all?” he recalled.

He said they worked with a cut-and-sew facility and seamstress and made up the first prototypes before testing them in a laboratory.

Their son and his teammates at Wesleyan became the first to practice with the new equipment.

In 2012, The University of South Carolina and Clemson were the first college adopters, and the company experienced solid grassroots growth after that.

Joining the Peachtree Corners business community

By 2014, the Hansons moved their company to Peachtree Corners to benefit from the pro-business, family-friendly community and strong Georgia Tech connections.

The Guardian Cap is now used by over 300,000 youth high school and college athletes nationwide and mandated by the NFL for all 32 teams.

The cap dramatically reduces the force of impact upon collision, as experienced by football and lacrosse players. This topic has come to national attention due to CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and its relation to concussions.

According to company literature, in 2017, Guardian won the first NFL HeadHealth TECH challenge to “develop new and improved helmet and protective equipment.”

While the football helmet itself has undergone many changes since the early days of the small leather hats that only covered the tops of the head and the ears (no face mask and nothing to absorb blows from tackles and other hits), Guardian Caps are an accessory that builds upon modern technology.

Some college and professional players wear helmets made so that the interior conforms to their heads. Guardian Caps adds a layer of protection on the outside, absorbing shock before the impact even reaches the helmet.

“Now, obviously, safety is a concern amongst athletes. So, Guardian Cap has come up with this soft-shell layer that goes on top of the hard shell of the helmet,” said Lee.

In 2018, testing done by NFL and NFLPA-appointed engineers revealed that Guardian Caps made a statistically significant improvement over hard-shell helmets alone, company literature said.

By August 2020, the NFL allowed its teams to wear Guardian Caps during practice. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the first to do so. In July 2022, Guardian Caps were featured at NFL training camps for all 32 teams.

This year, the NFL mandated that Guardian Caps be used for the 2023 season in all pre-season, regular season, and post-season practices. Players in position groups with the most head contact will be required to wear Guardian Caps in addition to running backs and fullbacks, as well as linemen and linebackers.

No one-hit-wonder

Genius doesn’t take a timeout, and Guardian Sports isn’t resting on the Caps’ success alone.

“We’re constantly evolving, and although Guardian Caps is our flagship product, we’ve got others,” said Erin.

Their son Jake was a lacrosse goalie at Georgia Tech, dodging rock-hard projectiles flying at him at 93 miles an hour.

“So, we said, ‘You know, why don’t we make lacrosse balls out of rubber?’” Erin said.

Thus, Lee created a urethane ball. Called the “Pearl,” it is now the official ball of the NCAA lacrosse tournament.

The Hansons have also developed infill for artificial turf fields that isn’t made of used car tires.

Without the chemicals and carcinogens of rubber tires, the smoother pellets are puffed with air, cause fewer abrasions and lower the temperature of the field by as much as 30 degrees.

“As we see things, it’s really difficult not to want to solve things when you see our children being affected by it,” said Erin.

Investors initially wanted to sell Guardian Caps at $1,000 each, but the Hansons knew that families couldn’t afford that price tag for youth sports. At the end of the day, they are a dad and a mom who are looking out for the safety of kids.

“The NFL is really cool, and they’ve helped us with exposure, but, you know, we’ve got a real passion for helping those young developing players, for sure,” she said.

Guardian Sports
3044 Adriatic Ct NW
Peachtree Corners, GA 30071
guardiansports.com
770-667-6004

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