New Orleans pickleball venue hosts open play, parties and events

Photos courtesy of The Exchange Pickleball + Bar.

New Orleans attorney Renée Melchiode is a longtime recreational tennis player. But like many adults in recent years, she tried her hand at the fastest growing sport in America: pickleball.

“I came off the field and said, ‘This is a lot of fun. We need a pickleball facility. We’re in New Orleans, so of course we need food, a bar, a large party space to gather, a spectator area, and live music capability as well “, said Melchiode. “That’s kind of how the vision started, and a month later we were blown away by the interest.”

Founding of Melchiode The Pickleball + Bar Exchange in the Lower Garden District of New Orleans, the only dedicated pickleball facility combining climate-controlled indoor and outdoor courts, food and beverages in the Gulf South.
The eating and drinking began on August 8 and has not stopped since.

“All generations can play; it’s a healthy social activity that everyone has latched on to,” Melchiode said. The Association of Pickleball Professionals estimates that 48.3 million American adults, or 19% of our entire population, have played at least one game in the past 12 months.

The Exchange site, located in the former warehouse near Tchoupitoulas Walmart, includes approximately 25,000 square feet of six indoor air-conditioned courts, one outdoor court, ping pong, corn hole, restaurant and service bar complete. The Restoration of MessinaNew Orleans caterer over 60 years old, is the daily catering and catering partner for parties and events.

“The beauty of playing a sport like pickleball is that four people cycle in and out for matches that last about 15 to 20 minutes, so everyone who wants to play has a chance to do so. It’s also a fast-paced action sport, perfect for watching and observing while eating and drinking,” Melchiode said. “The six indoor courts lead to the center of our site, to the bar and restaurant area. We also have an outdoor court, outdoor furniture seating and garage doors that connect indoor play to outdoor play.

Businesses join to sip and serve
In addition to open play being popular, it’s the party and event side of things that fill the calendar nights and weekends at New Orleans’ newest option “Eatertainment” – a growing event concept and a tendency to desire food and/or drink before, during, and after activities.

On the opening night of The Exchange, there was a corporate event for LongueVue Capital; It was such a success that the company rebooked for another event. West Jefferson Medical Center also has an event scheduled for its employees.

“The administrator at West Jeff contacted me to organize a team building activity for about 30 people,” said Ray Puglisi, general manager of The Exchange. “I asked, ‘Do you need a professional to help you?’ They said, “No, we have someone who is very competitive and knows the sport well. » They arrived with ready-made supports for an internal tournament. It was great to see that enthusiasm, and the gaming aspect is a huge draw.

The Exchange space can accommodate up to 600 people for an event. The venue has a live music license and Melchiode can also work with a company to schedule a band and live music. Prices vary depending on the size of the group, the number of court rentals desired and the length of the game. There may be partial space rentals or full buyouts.

“In addition to businesses, we have hosted birthday parties, alumni groups, reunions, conventioneers and large groups for sporting events,” Melchiode said. “There is always something on our calendar. We have even already received reservations as early as January.

On September 15, The Exchange hosted its largest corporate event to date with Rampart/Wurth Holding, inviting 200 real estate and construction professionals, ranging from employees to clients and prospects.

“Our employees and customers love playing pickleball, and it’s the perfect networking and socializing opportunity that reflects our company’s fun, think-outside-the-box culture,” said Joseph Pappalardo, Jr., president. of Rampart/Wurth Holding, Inc. “We had it completely taken care of, we had a pianist and a pickleball professional who helped people who wanted to learn. It was a really casual and fun atmosphere that we livened up, but was also stylish and professional in entertaining our customers who are important to us.

Team building activity combined with food/drink trends
Stacey Messina, owner/vice president of sales and marketing of Messina’s Catering, knew Melchiode in the same tennis circles, and when Messina was approached about a partnership, the two began exploring the concept of how to mix the pickleball with the food and drink component.

“We actually visited several pickleball facilities around the country and we knew from what we saw that this concept could definitely take off,” Messina said. “It was a partnership we had to make happen.”

Since its first catering contract with the Pontchartrain Center in the 1990s, the food and beverage management company now serves convention centers, restaurants, hotels, festivals and even the Lakefront Airport, among others places.

Messina said he has seen a trend in the party planning industry of adding a team-building activity (pickleball, high-level golf, bowling, interactive photo booth, etc.) to a catering event.

“Businesses love the idea of ​​being able to host their holiday event at The Exchange, and it becomes a team-building event for staff as well,” Messina said. “In addition, we have seen many companies book holiday networking events with their clients to provide their clients with a fun holiday outing at The Exchange.

At The Exchange, people can order dishes ranging from spring rolls, blood sausages, wings and pickle chips to burgers, wraps, sandwiches, salads and flatbreads. Catering items for field events include crawfish fritters, fried chicken and buttermilk waffles, mini muffulettas, blackened alligator bites, duck empanadas, among other “food appetizers.” “upscale, quality bar with a distinct New Orleans flavor and food options with a distinct New Orleans flavor and twist,” Messina said.

There are also serving area display choices ranging from charcuterie, sliders, shrimp and grits, pasta stations, bread pudding, among others. For drinks, guests can offer hosted open bar options or cash bar options. Food and beverage options include selections of wines, cocktails, and more.

“Messina has been doing this and doing it well for a long time; they are the ideal event management partner, able to give a sense of intimacy even to a large crowd, which is important for a venue of our size,” said Melchiode. “The menu is the best New Orleans possible, combined with healthy options because we know you play pickleball. It’s truly an experience for everyone to play the fastest growing sport, or to watch, socialize, drink, eat and have a good time.

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